The Road to Recovery: 5 Simple Tips to Getting Back on Track After an Injury
Injuries can be devastating, both physically and mentally, for those whose identities center around being active at all times. Unfortunately, they are an inevitable part of pushing the human body to new boundaries week after week in hopes of maximizing peak fitness. For athletes, weekend warriors, and new-comers alike, unexpected injuries can throw a wrench in daily routines, causing frustration and a burning desire to get back on track. Here are 5 simple ways you can do just that.
- Take time off. As much as you may not want to hear this, there truly is no substitute for allowing your body to rest and recover. Looking for silver bullets will cause more harm than good, potentially harming your recovery and further prolonging the time it takes for you to return to full strength. It is best to take a deep breath, consider the future, and give yourself the time to recover both physically and psychologically. Time away from activity can be used to focus on self-care: get more sleep, spend time with loved ones, read a good book. Allowing your mind to relax and focus on other things will help you forget about the burning desire to get back on your feet that every recovering athlete faces.
- Eat healthy. Not exercising does not mean you should avoid healthy living all together. By following a healthy, balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats, you can give your body the fuel needed to support muscle and tissue repair. Fight swelling by including anti-inflammatory foods such as ginger, turmeric and omega-3 fatty acids. Increased intake of Vitamin C foods will help in restrengthening bones. Consuming foods that are high in zinc such as eggs, nuts, and dark chocolate can mend wounded tissue and help you to feel better.
- Listen to your body. The recovery time table looks different for everybody. The bottom line is that nobody knows your body better than yourself. Periodically assess mobility and physical state but do not push yourself too hard if you are still experiencing pain. It is better to be cautious than rush into recovery and risk further injuring yourself and causing permanent damage to your body. Start by attempting some gentle stretching and then slowly transition to no-impact activities like swimming or yoga. Consider getting an evaluation through a primary care or sports medicine physician if you are unsure of the extent of your injury. Once you do return to action, don’t start at 100% right away. Begin at 50% of your initial intensity, feel out how your body responds, and slowly increase your intensity and duration by about 10% each week. It is okay to go backwards and slow things down when your body does not feel okay. Recovery is never a straight-line, and it is better to accept the ups and downs rather than forcing your body to levels that it is not yet comfortable with.
- Consider hot or cold therapy. Right after suffering an injury, ice can be one of the quickest and most effective ways to decrease swelling and prevent inflammation. Ice can help in preventing muscle pain and spasms as well as decreasing bleeding within tissue. On the other hand, heat therapy can be helpful as well. Heating your body in areas of injury can promote blood flow and dilate vessels, allowing for essential nutrients as well as oxygen to reach affected areas quicker and more efficiently.
- Try physical therapy. Physical therapists are the ultimate experts on activity-induced injuries and went to school specifically to be able to help people return to normal activity and strength. Seeing a licensed physical therapist can help in strengthening muscles and joints while also giving you a trusted professional who can help track your progress, give you strategies to manage pain as well as give you exercise to complete at home to expedite your treatment and recovery. Depending on where you live, you could be able to visit any physical therapist near you, without needing a doctor’s prescription, and start your journey to recovery today.