I’m injured. Should I rest to make it go away?

Injury. It’s pretty rubbish. Especially when it occurs doing exercise – something that is meant to make you healthier. There also seems to be a massive range of how quickly people get better and come back from injury. Some bounce right back and start doing their thing again, others flounder in the doldrums of injury and re-injury.

Unfortunately when you do something nasty to yourself it doesn’t always take the same amount of time to heal, nor does it manifest itself in the same way, as it does in others. It’s not the same as a bit on your car or bike breaking down which is simply replaced – why is this? Well – there are a number of variables…..

1 – The injured tissueknee pain - if only it were this easy

Every different type of body tissue takes different amounts of time to repair. Even in muscles, different bits of muscle take different amounts of time to heal. Have you injured a tendon? The junction between the muscle and the tendon? The main part of the muscle? A ligament? The capsule? A bursa? The list goes on. Some tissues have better blood flow than others, some respond to rest, some respond better to loading.

Each type of injury is going to take a slightly different approach to getting better, and the key is being aware of which structure is injured. If you have a stress fracture or a break, rest is probably optimal in terms of the early stage healing, however, there are many other times when resting is not the best thing you can do. Optimal loading will encourage a faster return to sport.

 

2 – The amount of trauma

Sometimes difficult to quantify, but for arguments sake, lets just categorize it between a bit and a lot. Obviously a bit of trauma (a slight sprain) is going to heal somewhat faster than a completely ruptured ligament (a lot). When the injury is below skin level it can be a challenge to work out just how bad the injury is (and sometimes even what structure or combination of structures are injured), as pain is not necessarily a useful and reliable guide to damage caused.

 

3 – Diet

You are indeed what you eat. The quality of tissue in your body is actually related to the fuel you put into it. If it’s junk and processed food, the chances are you are less likely to have a speedy recovery than if you’re being intelligent about what you are eating. Good food; in fact, good quality food, is an often disregarded part of recovery. It shouldn’t be.

 

4 – Sleep

Notice I have not said “rest”. Sometimes rest is needed, sometimes it is not. Sleep, however, is absolutely essential. There are sayings like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, and this is not helpful. If you are injured and recovering from injury, your body needs time to regenerate the tissues, it needs time to heal, and that comes during sleep. Don’t skimp on it. Take the time to heal.

 

5 – Reinjury

Coming back too fast too soon – something we have all done. You feel better after the injury, and think that everything is healed and going well, so off you go for a nice long run and twang! Back to the start all over again – and it was going so well! Feelings of “I should have just waited a little longer” come to you. Perhaps yes, you should have waited a little longer before going out for a monster run. Smaller runs, easier sessions, and building up are key.

The tissue is still healing and remodelling, even up to 6 months after the injury. Modifying intensity and time is the best way to ensure the tissue is not overloaded to reinjury, but is simply loaded to the point where it can continue to recover.

 

So – if you’re injured, especially if you’ve been out of action for a while, please don’t just sit there waiting for it to get better. Be pro-active, talk to someone who knows about tissue healing. Seek out people who can help you. What you eat, the way you move, the amount you move and the amount you sleep can all have bearing upon how fast you can return to sport or life.

Yes, time heals wounds, but in order to come back from injury fighting fit, it is likely that there is something you can do to speed you on your way.


We offer Physiotherapy, Sports Massage and Personal Training – all excellent services for assessing injuries and guiding you through the healing process, and often enabling people to come back stronger.

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