One of the most frustrating experiences is dealing with an injury. You’ve dedicated yourself to living a healthy and active lifestyle when you get stopped in your tracks. Taking a step back from training, or even adapting everyday activities can be a big challenge physically and mentally.
Here are some ways you can help yourself recover from an injury and get back in the game sooner.
Get some professional help
Injuries will heal faster when they’re in the presence of therapeutic applications. An athletic therapist is armed with extensive knowledge of the musculoskeletal system (i.e. muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons) and in particular how to assess and rehab injuries using various rehabilitative techniques, soft tissue release, manual therapy treatments and therapeutic modalities.
Lack of pain doesn’t mean all clear
When injuries begin feeling better, the temptation to jump back in with both feet can be strong, but the injury typically won’t be back to full strength and relapses may occur. Make your return to activities progressive and continue with therapy until you get the clearance from your health professional.
Taking time off from all types of activities is never a good idea with an injury, as soft tissue tends to stiffen and become weaker. It also reduces blood flow to the areas, making healing times slower and rehab take longer. Instead, try to incorporate cross training, gentle stretching, and altered strength training exercises to help keep you healthy while protecting the injured area and letting it heal as best as possible.
Drink water and eat well
Tissues heal best when they are well hydrated and being fed the right kinds of foods. Eat a diet rich in whole foods like vegetables, fruits, and lean cuts of meat, while cutting back on foods like processed carbs, sugar and alcohol. This will also help you prevent weight gain from the injury as your activity patterns may be altered and your caloric burn may be different.
The time it takes to heal will vary by tissue type. Most muscle issues will heal within a few weeks, whereas ligament and tendon issues may require a few months, and inflammation issues like tendinitis or fasciitis may require longer. Each person will recover differently as well, depending on age, diet, physical activity history, and level of rehabilitation involvement.
Listen to your body
When you do return to activity, go in at half the normal speed and volume to see if you have any issues. You’ll probably feel great during, but after the adrenalin wears off you may find it was too much. See what your injured area feels like the day after activity, and if there’s any pain or discomfort give it a few days before re-trying, and then step it down a notch or two further. Keep doing this until you have no pain the following day, and then slowly increase in a pain-free manner.