Recovering from an injury is somewhat of an art, as professional sportspeople and their teams will attest. It takes a combination of rest, rehabilitation, good nutrition and appropriate medical care to get back on top form as quickly as possible.
Recovery can also feel overwhelming at times, so it’s essential to approach the process gently, accompanied by medical professionals where necessary. To help demystify the recovery process, we’ll explore the crucial aspects of it, starting with how to figure out if you should rest or push through an injury. We’ll look into how to adapt your diet to help you recover, including whether you should take any supplements. And, we’ll highlight how experts recommend you take care of your mental health during recovery so you can avoid feeling low.
7 Tips for Successfully Healing Your Injury Faster
1. GET LOOSE AND STRETCH
Depending on the severity of your injury, you might have to wait for a little before getting back onto your regular training routine. Some injuries, like torn or pulled muscles, should not be stretched. Doing so will only worsen the injury.
Under the approval of your doctor, you may be able to practice some light exercise and stretching. Stretching can help condition your muscles while also helping prevent future injuries. At X Shadyside, we offer a movement-based class called StretchX. This class challenges your range of motion and flexibility.
2. STAY HYDRATED
Proper hydration plays an important role in the healing process. Drinking water can help speed up your recovery by thinning your blood, thereby allowing nutrients and oxygen to flow quickly through your body. You will also want to avoid caffeinated drinks, as they can make it difficult for the body to reduce swelling.
3. REMEMBER TO FOCUS ON YOUR MENTAL RECOVERY TOO
Physical injuries can negatively affect one’s mental health. It’s common for people to feel frustrated, angry, or isolated after experiencing an injury. Some athletes even experience depression or anxiety. That’s why it’s important to look after your mental health during your recovery. Some people seek out emotional support or make temporary lifestyle changes to keep themselves occupied. Setting new goals can also help you stay positive and make a successful recovery.
4. PRACTICE COLD THERAPY
If you experienced an acute soft tissue injury, you will need to follow the RICE method immediately. This cold therapy method can alleviate any discomfort resulting from the injury. The full steps of the RICE treatment include:
- R for Rest: Avoid moving or using the injured body part for at least a few hours
- I for Ice: Apply an ice pack to your injury to help reduce pain and swelling
- C for Compress: Firmly wrap a bandage around the injury
- E for Elevate: Elevate the injury above your heart or at least close to its level if you can’t elevate it
In general, you should wait one to three days before working out. However, this will vary based on the severity of your injury and your doctor’s recommendation. During this rest period, you can think about what factors led to your injury. Were you pushing yourself too hard? Failing to properly warm-up? Using poor technique? Thinking about this can help you take the necessary steps to prevent the same injury from occurring again. Sometimes, injuries occur as a result of a freak accident. But other times, you can learn something important from your injury.
6. FOLLOW PRACTICES FOR INJURY PREVENTION
While some injuries are not 100% preventable, you can still follow best practices for injury prevention to significantly reduce your chances of dealing with one. Maybe you need to stretch longer or perform more warm-up exercises. Or you’re pushing yourself too hard. If you’re having trouble following a challenging, but safe routine, you might benefit from hiring a personal trainer for assistance.
7. NOURISH YOURSELF ON A HEALTHY DIET
Your diet can have a large impact on your healing process. During your recovery, make sure you fill yourself up with plenty of protein! Protein is essential for muscle development, which will be essential when you start re-training. Vitamin C and omega-3 fatty-acids are also great for healing, as they contain numerous anti-inflammatory properties. You should also seek out foods that are rich in zinc, calcium, and fiber. All of these nutrients play important roles in the healing process.
CAN FOODS HELP YOU RECOVER FROM AN INJURY?
Food and supplements can help your body heal from injuries by giving it the nutrients it needs to repair itself. Some nutrients to include within a balanced diet include:
- Protein: Injuries can lead to loss of muscle mass because the area you have injured is used less while you rest to recover. According to a 2015 study in Sports Medicine, increasing your protein intake through supplements, such as shakes, or in your diet by eating lean meats, can support your body to minimize this loss. Once you’re ready to return to normal levels of activity, increasing your protein intake can help your muscles heal and regenerate faster.
- Vitamin C: Eating a diet rich in vitamin C can help boost your body’s collagen production abilities, which can allow injuries to heal more efficiently, according to the same study. These foods include leafy greens, berries and tomatoes, as well as oranges and mangoes.
- Zinc: Low levels of zinc have been found to delay healing, making the nutrient an important one to remember during recovery from an injury, according to a Journal of Research in Medical Sciences study. Foods rich in zinc include pulses, seeds, and nuts.