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Many people who experience a debilitating injury find that the recovery period is not easy. In addition to the pain, the difficulty of the treatments, and the logistical hurdles of having an injury that restricts normal mobility and movement, the process is usually not good for your health overall.
When you’re not moving around in your normal fashion, your metabolism slows down, which usually leads to weight gain and muscle strain. Your body basically goes into energy-saving mode and it can feel like you’ve lost years of devoted training and fitness in a matter of weeks.
For most people recovering from injuries – in particular, athletes, exercise fanatics, or everyday trainers – the most important thing besides healing is reducing the amount of recovery time needed. Your most ideal course of action will be to have a personal trainer or physical therapist who can help you carefully and methodically craft your rehabilitation timeline.
But even if you’re going it alone, it’s best to hear some words of wisdom from professional trainers about how to expedite your injury recovery. Here are some commonly accepted strategies:
Improve Joint Strength
Joints are among the unsung heroes of our bodies. If you ever doubt their importance, talk to someone who has had a major knee injury about how difficult it is to rehabilitate what is essentially one of the body’s most critical hinge joints. Joints are the connective tissue of your body’s musculoskeletal system and when they’re in disarray, everything is harder and more painful.
One way to improve joint strength after an injury is to adhere to a regiment of anti-gravity rehab. Like water training only better, this type of rehab reduces the weight of the body during treadmill exercises and thus reduces the strain of impact training as well as the chances of re-injury.
Utilize Myofascial Release
This is a strategy that is common among heavy-duty trainers who spend a lot of time working out in gyms. It includes techniques like foam rolling, trigger point therapy, or PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching. Some studies have shown that this kind of treatment can improve flexibility, reduce pain and soreness, and induce a greater range of motion during exercise while recovering from an injury.
Make Sure You’re Stretching
There may be nothing more important in exercise, much less during recovery, than stretching. But stretching isn’t a monochromatic one-off. There are four different kinds – static, dynamic, ballistic, and PNF – and you need to know which is best for you based on your injury.
Stretching is one of the most overlooked part of an exercise program. A good stretching routine should be incorporated into your fitness routine a minimum of three times per week. This is especially important if your routine is predominantly resistance training. Resistance or weight training as a tendency to tighten the muscles, making them very much prone to being strained or pulled. A good stretching routine helps negate and avoid these injuries.
Get Your Weight In Check
This will go for just about any physical therapy treatment. Reducing body weight just makes everything easier, not the least of which is recovering from an injury. The problem is that when you’re injured and non-mobile, your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) levels drop and it’s harder to burn calories.
This also ties back into your joint health. Carrying excess weight whether it be fat or lean mass taxes your joints. An extra 20-40 pounds moving on your joints adds up throughout the day as you walk and move about your daily tasks.
And though you’ve heard it a million times, you cannot underestimate the value of good nutrition when it comes to weight loss.
Get Good Sleep and Rest
Sleep is arguably the most important factor in speeding up recovery, sleep is where your body repairs itself. During sleep your body releases oxygen to break up lactic acid in your muscles and produces HGH to help build new tissue and muscle. A recent study from the APS has shown that subjects who get 7-9 hours of sleep healed minor surface wounds significantly faster than subjects who were sleep-deprived even when they were given carefully balanced nutrient and protein supplements.
Effects of lack of sleep include:
- Slower muscle recovery
- Changes in mood
- Increase level of stress hormones, including cortisol
- Decreased glycogen synthesis
- Increased aerobic endurance
- Increased ratings of perceived exertion
It’s been proven time and time again that good sleep helps to regulate your body’s cycles and thus induce a good equilibrium. Especially when recovering from an injury, you need solid sleep and plenty of rest to rebuild your body’s defenses.
Fuel Yourself With Quality Nutrition
Your body is a reflection of what you put into it. Like a high performance car you should be putting high performance fuel into it. Eating the right nutrients is essential to assist tissue repair and injury recovery , consider working in foods that contain these vital nutrients. This is just a small sample, there are more foods and nutrients you should include for a balanced diet.
Protein is crucial for the injury repair process. Protein is one of the main essential nutrients needed for new growth in the body. Often times with an injury your body will need to be creating new tissue, making protein essential to have. Lean animal sources are the best source of protein other good protein alternatives include eggs, milk and Greek yogurt.
Omega-3 is found in fish, but you can also get it in supplement form, which is how a lot of individuals intake it. It works great as an inflammatory and also supports brain function. Work in fish such as salmon, tilapia, and sea bass to hit omega-3 and protein intake.
Crucial for tissue growth, zinc, plays a large role in your body. Along with tissue growth it is also a big factor in your immune system. Zinc can be found in organ meats but aslo nuts, seeds and chicken.
Another important immune boosting factor is Vitamin A. Vitamin A is found in root vegetables such as sweet potatoes.
For most people recovering from injuries – in particular, athletes, exercise fanatics, or everyday trainers – the most important thing besides healing is reducing the amount of recovery time needed.
Thankfully, with the right approach you can shave days or even weeks off your recovery time depending on your injury and how exactly you face it head on.
Try the strategies we’ve covered in this guide for great results, and when in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact a qualified physical trainer, musculoskeletal therapist, or other specialist for some additional guidance.