Assisting Recovery when Injured

When you are injured and have to take time off your fitness routine what are some things you can do to assist recovery?  This will depend on what your injury is and how it was sustained.  Unfortunately there are no magical stretches or any one thing which cover all injuries. However there are some general guidelines you can follow which may help recovery.

Acute Sprains and Strains

Ice within the first 48 hours can reduce effects of a strain or sprain.  Elevation, rest and immobilisation of the affected body part is also recommended.  There are various creams on the market, often containing the herb arnica, which can help reduce bruising and swelling.

After 48 hours most of the swelling will have stopped and your recovery strategy needs to change. Heat is commonly applied after this time and some very gentle movement will improve circulation at the injury site removing waste products and bringing in fresh blood and nutrients for healing.  When it comes to any movement ‘gentle’ is crucial to avoid re-injury.

Chronic Pain Flare Ups

Chronic conditions often flare up and affect your ability to exercise safely and comfortably.  Our first reaction with chronic pain conditions is often to stretch out and strengthen the affected area, but often in these conditions the muscle is not weak but fatigued, and rest or restorative positions followed by gentle mobiiisation are often more effective than stretching alone.

Acute Muscle Spasms

Muscle spasms are a defensive holding mechanism.  Proprioceptive senses detect instability and muscles will tighten and hold in order to protect and stabilise the body.  Over zealous stretching or mobilisation to get the muscle to release may sometimes make things worse.   Rest, gentle mobilisation and/or massage may encourage the muscles to release, particularly if stability is re-established.

General Healing Recommendations

Rest then Move

Consider whether your injury may require rest in the first instance.  This is true for both acute and chronic injuries.

Ice may be a better solution for acute injuries like a sprain, while heat is often more effective for chronic conditions such as recurring back pain or spasms.

Use gentle mobilisation or movement and light massage rather than stretching.  This will keep blood flowing into the area for healing and will benefit fascia, muscle, joints, tendons and ligaments – all of which may be involved to some degree.  Work on the floor.  Taking gravity and balance out of the equation can be reduce the risk of falling and reinjury. The floor is generally more supportive and safer to work on.

Eat

The body needs proper fuel to help it rebuild and recovery from injury.

A healthy metabolism means a healthy immune and repair system and the best way to keep your metabolism high is to eat enough calories.  So don’t be tempted to reduce calories because you aren’t so active – this will only slow things down even more.

Also remember that body tissues are made up of protein, so whether it’s a broken bone or soft muscle injury protein is your number one choice for rebuilding and repairing.   Adequate protein will also avoid atrophy of muscles if you are bed ridden for a while.

Think

Time off may give you a chance to think about why or how your injury occurred in the first place.  Do you always overdo things?  Do you work out even when you’re feeling tired or mildly injured?  Do you know how to do things in moderation?   Is your exercise routine more hazardous than helpful to your health and wellbeing?

Get Help

Seek professional advice if you feel that your injury may be more serious or doesn’t seem to be healing as fast as it should, or if you feel that exercise is heading into an obsession that is causing more harm than good.

Return Slowly

Come back into your exercise routine slowly and don’t be afraid to take time get back to where you were, otherwise you may find yourself back on the couch and starting recovery all over again.