Get Off the Sidelines: Injury Recovery

Injury Recovery

Injuries happen, inside and outside of the gym. You can have great technique, coaching, programming but an injury can still happen. All of these things can help minimize the risk but nothing can remove the risk completely. Heck you can even get hurt doing everyday things and playing sports only increases the risk. That’s why knowing proper injury recovery techniques are essential.

How does an injury actually happen? A injury happens when more force is expressed into a tissue then that tissue can handle. Injuries can take many different forms, sprains, strains, breaks, etc. The two categories they fall into are acute and chronic injuries. Acute injuries have a sudden onset (typically a sharp pain), resulting from a specific event and do not typically lead to permanent joint or muscle damage unless very severe. Chronic injuries typically have a slow and gradual onset of signs and symptoms. It can start as a sore muscle and become progressively worse, typically due to continued abuse. It can progress from mild pain to severe pain and can lead to joint instability. All of the recommendations I will be making can help both types of injuries.

After any acute or flare up of chronic injury it is a good idea to use the RICE method for about 48-72 hours. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. This will help to lower the inflammation from the injury, which is a safety mechanism of the body to prevent you from using the damaged area and causing more issues as well as signaling the body to start the healing process. Therefore, inflammation is not always a bad thing, we just don’t want too much of it and definitely don’t want chronic inflammation. The ONLY recommendation not to use during the 48-72 hours after a injury are castor oil packs and you will see why latter on.

The goal of this post is to give you a guide on injury recovery and how to optimize it. Once you’re done reading you’ll have some lifestyle, nutrition and supplement tools to help you on your way to full health and know what not to use.

Lifestyle:

Grounding
This may be my number 1 recommendation to anyone with any injury especially when it is chronic. This may sound hokey but there is actually a lot of research supporting grounding. Grounding is what it sounds like – making direct contact with the earth, skin to earth (dirt, grass, gravel, sand). The surface of the earth is electrically charged and making contact with it allows us to take up free electrons from the surface.[1] Note: if the surface is very dry you will take up much less electrons that if it were wet/damp. Grounding has been proven to decrease inflammation throughout the body, increasing both chronic and acute injuries.[2] That means go outside and put your feet in the grass or you can buy a grounding mat to use during the winter.

Foam rolling/mobility
This can help on your road to recovery for many injuries. Tissues can become very stiff and immobile after an injury, foam rolling can help get the blood flowing to the tissue and remove built up inflammatory compounds. Also, sometimes pain in a joint or an area of the body can be from tissue tightness either above or below the affected area. Try to roll out the area below and above slowly 10 times and see if it improves. Places NOT to roll – on joints, first 5 inches above the knee on the outside (lowest part of the IT band).

Castor oil packs
These work very well for both acute and chronic injuries. Castor oil when applied topically produces anti-inflammatory effects[3] and speeds up healing.[4] To make a castor oil pack you need a hot water bottle, flannel or organic cotton towel or shirt you don’t care about (it will be ruined) and castor oil. Apply the castor oil on the injured area and onto the flannel. Place the flannel on top of the affected area then place the hot water bottle on top. The heat will help get the castor oil into the skin. I have a plastic hot water bottle. If you have one that may get ruined from the oil place some plastic wrap between the flannel and the water bottle. Keep it on the affected area for 45 minutes to an hour.

Nutrition:

Eating a nutrient dense diet is always a good idea but is even more important when you’re sick or injured. Your body needs more nutrients in order to heal and get you back to tip top shape. Your body will eventually heal even if you eat a shit diet but it will take longer…

Try to incorporate foods that contain higher levels of the following nutrients

Sulphur
Is a very important mineral in the body, so important we aren’t even sure what deficiency signs are since it can cause everything to break down. Sulphur helps to solidify protein structures, which is very much needed to heal any kind of injury. It is found in very high concentrations in the joints. Good food sources are eggs, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onion, garlic.[5]

Manganese
Has many different functions in the body. Two of the big ones that relate to injuries are: it lowers inflammation, and helps to increase anti-oxidant activity as injuries cause more free radicals and damage. Good food sources are pecans, brazil nuts, almonds, barley, buckwheat, walnuts and spinach.[5]

Vitamin C
Helps to create collagen structures for cartilage, connective tissue, ligaments and tendons (ie helping injuries heal faster!). Vitamin C is also a potent anti-oxidant that can help fight free radicals (discussed above). Good food sources are camu camu, red peppers, kale leaves, parsely, collard greed’s, turnip greens, and lemon juice.

Supplements:

Curcumin
Is a phytochemical found in turmeric. It has many health benefiting properties like cancer prevention and it is a very powerful anti-inflammatory. Supplementing with curcumin right after injury will help to lower the inflammation and pain. It can also help with chronic issues as well.[6] A great product is AOR’s Curcumin Active, it is bound to phospholipids meaning it gets into the cell very well and is active for longer (ie. More bang for your buck!).

Proteolytic enzymes
Are enzymes that help to breakdown protein in the body. These are very useful because when inflammation happens it can almost create a shield around the affected area preventing the healing materials from getting in and the garbage from getting flushed out. Proteolytic enzymes can help punch holes in the ‘inflammatory shield’ speeding healing. They will also help break up other inflammatory compounds in the body and scar tissue. Make sure you take these on an empty stomach away from food or else they won’t make it into your bloodstream as they’ll be too busy helping to digest your lunch.

Fish oil, Krill oil or Flax seed oil
All of these are high in Omega-3 fatty acids which will help to reduce inflammtion. Our modern diets are very high in poor quality fats which are inflammatory so adding extra Omega-3s in can really help especially after a injury.[7]

Training

As outlined at the start and injury happens when more force is transmitted into a tissue then that tissue can handle. We work to prevent injuries and recover from injuries by increasing the tissues ability to handle force. Injuries can also happen by our bodies not working properly (ie. joint coupling). If our system doesn’t have the pre-requisites necessary to move properly it is only a matter of time until we become injured. Making sure your body and joints are working necessary is extremely important to not only help recover from injuries but also to help prevent new ones in the future.

What you should never use:

Please do not use NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) after an injury or ever since they can actually damage your body and make things worse. NSAIDs are things like Advil and Aspirin. These drugs prevent you from manufacturing prostaglandins, they are natural substances that do many functions like protecting your stomach lining and regulating your blood pressure.[8] Prostaglandins are produced in response to injury help signal and encourage the body to heal to damaged tissues and collagen. NSAIDs can also increase your gut permeability which can lead to chronic inflammation and allergies to develop.[9]

With all the information you just learned above about how to help treat and speed up healing of injuries you now have plenty of options to use other than NSAIDs.

All of the discussed above is just the tip of the iceberg, please contact me through Josh@CocoonHealth.ca if you would like a personalized protocol or in person training to get you functioning optimally again. I have helped many clients get back to functioning better then before after an injury.

Thanks for reading,
Josh

References:

  1. Clinton Ober, Stephen T. Sinatra & Martin Zucker. Earthing.
  2. Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/
  3. Celme Vieira, et al. Effect of ricinoleic acid in acute and subchronic experimental models of inflammation. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1781768/pdf/11200362.pdf
  4. www.uterinefibroids.com/c_alt_castoroilpacks.htm
  5. Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods
  6. Tumeric – The Spice of Life
  7. Phyllis A. Balch. Prescription for Nutritional Healing
  8. Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training.
  9. NSAIDs – I still say never