Getting injured can be a crushing experience associated with physical pain, reduced function, and mental stress. At times when we find ourselves in this state, we may forget to show ourselves the needed love and attention the body requires when injured. Let’s remind ourselves on some tips to optimize the journey to recovery.
Get enough sleep!
Sleep plays a crucial role in injury recovery. The amount of sleep needed per night varies from person to person. Muscles and tissues repair and rejuvenate as we sleep. So, if you’re not getting enough rest it’s going to be harder for your body to bounce back from an injury. The first reason relates to blood flow. As you fall into the deeper stages of sleep, your muscles will see an increase in blood flow, which brings oxygen and nutrients to help with recovery. Hormones play a role, too. When the body enters deep sleep, glands release growth hormones that stimulate muscle repair and growth. Another hormone which helps manage inflammation is also released while sleeping. The management of inflammation is key to injury recovery!
Hydration for our body is essential. As humans we are made up of a high percentage of water. Muscles have amongst the highest water content at approximately 79%. When we use muscles, they require water to recover. Then when our muscles are broken down or injured and in need of fixing, the demand is that much higher and the repair process can only begin if adequate hydration is present!
When healing from injury, often an individual is told to rest. While this is true in some cases, injuries often respond to ‘relative rest’. If you rest a body part completely, it will start to lose some of its strength and fitness over time. This means that in some injuries you can weaken your injured area further if avoid its use. Instead the concept of ‘relative rest’ is a modification to the current day to day regime so that there is minimization of activities that increase symptoms or cause strain through the injury. This balancing act is tricky as it is difficult to figure out what level of activity the injury can cope with that does not cause symptoms to increase! But with the right tools and advice from a physiotherapist, – it is possible!
As mentioned above, there are both physical and mental aspects when recovering from an injury. When mental health is poor recovery often takes longer or doesn’t occur. One tool to try is meditation. Meditation is a beautiful way to center yourself. Findings of a recently published study demonstrated enhanced pain management and improved symptom outcomes amongst injured individuals who participated in meditation. Moreover, meditation is not only effective but accessible. It can be done anywhere! All you need to do is find a quiet, comfortable space, close your eyes, and simply breathe.
Like meditation gratitude cannot erase past pain or physical injury. However, changing the lens of how the body or the injury is viewed can be beneficial. Practicing gratitude can engage the part of the brain which assists in healing. So changing the “I will never”, “I can’t” or “ I hate” thoughts to ones of gratefulness for all that one is capable of, is invaluable in the injury recovery process.
Ask for help!
It may be hard to be vulnerable and ask for help, but one of the best ways to get through the difficult injury journey is getting the support you need. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s best to not go through it alone. Build a safety net. Build a team…and when thinking of injury recovery, a physiotherapy professional is an invaluable part of this team to guide you on the road to recovery!