Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Ask a Therapist - Top Five Reasons Your Injury Isn't Healing

In a somewhat divided nation, at least we can all agree that injuries suck.

There are many important things to keep in mind when you've sustained an injury, the greatest of which is, don't stop all exercise.  You may need to modify what you're doing or focus on aspects of your fitness or health that are not doing well, but you should never stop moving entirely.  Here are some of the top reasons why people struggle with injury recovery.

#1- You don't take time to recover or rejuvenate.  Without going into so much detail this point becomes a biochemistry and physiology class, there is a certain amount of healing that needs to take place on a daily basis.  Your body takes all kinds of stress (to include your workouts) in your daily life.  The good news is that the right amount of stress can make us stronger but only if we recover.  A perfect workout means nothing without the recovery piece.  There are many ways to recover from a workout but I like to think about the big picture.  Everything we do to our bodies will affect our recovery, not just what we do post-workout.  Personally I like to foam roll, practice yoga, and vary my training in cycles.  I like to ensure I get enough sleep and will skip workouts if it means catching up on important sleep time.

#2 - Your nutrition is...well, not optimal.  Eat things that were recently alive and are minimally-processed.  Get enough protein and make fewer trips to the liquor store.  And for the sake of all humanity, avoid trans-fats, vegetable oil, and eat as little sugar in your diet as possible.  Studies are clear that your nutrition status affects your immune system and you ability to recover and adapt to new stresses.

#3- You don't sleep enough.  How much is enough?  For most people this means at least 7 hours a night but if you're like thrive on 8-9 hours a night, especially in heavy training.  Our brains and all of our cells benefit from the hormonal changes that occur when we sleep.  Growth hormone spikes while we are asleep to initiate this healing process.  Go without sleep and you destabilize the cyclic patterns of a multitude of important hormones.

#4- You're going at it alone.  It's smart to get professional assistance when you have a problem that's worsening or failing to improve with your strategies.  Many times it is a team effort to get the best results.  For example, I brush and floss my teeth daily but I still rely on professional cleanings periodically to maximize the health of my teeth.  There are always important things you should be doing to recover from an injury, however sometimes getting a helping hand is what you need to kickstart the process.  If you're like me, you usually avoid asking for help and are generally independent and self-sufficient.  It's a trait that can be good in some situations but get us into trouble if we are too dogmatic.  In the case of an injury, sometimes we end up suffering more than we need.

"If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together."

#5- You have a poor attitude.  You need to want to get better and be willing to make any changes necessary to do so.  Your attitude about your body and what you're doing can make all the difference.  I can personally attest after having had my share of injuries that your mental state can affect whether or not you have the motivation to do the things you must do in order to heal.  Don't see a doctor, PT, chiropractor, etc with the expectation that they will fix you.  It's a failed model of medicine.  Instead it is better to work with a professional, get their support, use their knowledge, and use your can-do attitude to get better.  I watch people do this every day and the results can be quite amazing.

Always remember if you have an injury that your body is trying to remedy the situation.  Often times we don't pay much attention to our bodies until we are sick or injured when the truth is the healing process is occurring all day, every day.  With the exception of trauma, it's when we lose balance in the body that the illness or injury begin.  Those who are injured should look at this basic list for areas they may not be addressing.  To everyone else, practice healthy habits now and see how long you can keep injuries at bay.  And finally, remember that if you're injured it's not a free pass to lay on the couch, eat whatever you want, and binge watch the tube.  In my opinion, you are still in training.

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