How to reduce healing time from sports injuries
Sports Injuries suck! There is no way around it. When you are doing what you love and hear that pop, feel that snap, or sense that first shooting pain, it’s hard to know what hurts worse. Your body or your broken heart. Just knowing you will be on injured reserve for some time can be heartbreaking.
As athletes, we typically have a “no pain no gain” approach to life. But recovering from a sports injury often requires us to just wait it out, and that can be the most painful thing of all!
Your body wants to heal itself
When you get a cut or abrasion, your body goes about its natural processes to heal it up. You don’t have to do anything, as long as you stay out of your body’s way, the wound will naturally heal over. When it comes to sports injuries after you have sought proper medical attention, you are often sent home with a prescription for rest. You just have to let your body restore itself.
But sports injury recovery doesn’t mean you have to just lay around waiting for your body to do its healing work. There are several things you can do to assist your body in the healing process.
Most athletes are already familiar with the R.I.C.E protocol – Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. This is especially useful during the initial phase of the injury when there is acute swelling. The idea is to control inflammation. But there is actually a lot more you can do to help your body heal more quickly:
Take anti-inflammatory OTC medication such as Ibuprofen. Not only does this help control pain, it also helps reduce inflammation.
Hot and cold alternating therapy, once the initial stages of swelling have decreased, is also an effective method to reduce inflammation. Begin with 10 minutes of heat, switch to 5 minutes of ice and repeat for 3-5 rounds, ending with an additional 10 minutes of heat.
Eating plenty of antioxidant-rich foods is especially important for reducing inflammation. Basically, you want to eat as many darkly colored fruits and veggies as you can manage. Juicing is a great way to make this happen. But if juicing is a bit too much work for you, there are some great juice powders commercially available. I’m personally using HealthForce SuperFoods Vitamineral Green Powder as I recover from a sports injury of my own. Olympian and snowboard legend Jamie Anderson is a big fan of Dragon Herbs – Tonic Alchemy.
Reducing inflammatory foods such as grains, sugar and dairy can also be a huge help. These foods are notoriously hard for humans to process and contribute greatly to inflammation in our soft tissue and joints. You don’t have to go all paleo but even cutting back will help.
Supplementation: Turmeric, Fish Oil and Spirulina all have lots of convincing evidence to show they are effective at reducing inflammation in the body. See our guide to the top supplements athletes are taking.
Alternative therapies are a great idea. Acupuncture, massage and ice baths can all do wonders for increasing circulation.
Breathing has been shown to reduce recovery time. Yeah, it seems obvious but deep breathing does wonders. See our guide to breathing exercises for athletes here. Especially effective is the Wim Hof Method.
Introduce a gentle, controlled movement. Of course, you are eager to get back to working out. But you have to give your body plenty of time to do its healing work. Physical therapy, when approved by your doctor, is massively important for proper healing. As your doctor gives you permission to be more and more mobile you can start looking for that “Goldilocks Zone”. This is the amount of movement where you start to feel your injury but you are not yet in pain. Doing less movement isn’t effective, but working through the pain can cause you to backslide. Try tai chi, yoga, walking and swimming as your doctor sees best.
Mindset makes a huge difference. You can decide to be a victim or you can decide to come back stronger. It is completely up to you. Keep your mind active.
Make recovery your workout. Think about how many hours you normally dedicate to your sport and try to dedicate the same amount of time to your recovery. Spend 15 minutes deep breathing, 15 minutes juicing veggies, 30 minutes on approved physical therapy, and an hour doing hot and cold therapy. Treating your sports injury as seriously as you treat your sport will blast you through your recovery time.
Sports Injury Recovery Tool Kit: