How to recover after an injury

Injuries can happen to anyone at any time. When things seem to be going well and you’re running faster or longer or you’re getting stronger by the week and then something just goes and it’s frustrating!

If you’ve picked up an injury, and you’re in need of some urgent tips so you can get back on track with your training, then you’ve come to the right place. This post is going to give you the methods in which you can use to help your recovery after injury.

Rest and sleeprest-and-sleep

It’s time to stick the tv on and have some down time or if you’re obsessed like me plan your next workout or learn new meals to cook, because you’re sick of eating the same thing over and over! Resting your injured muscle during the day is going to speed up your recovery process so enjoy the rest! Also, if you are worried about being inactive, I’ve learnt that a few days to a week off gym helps my strength in the long term. This is giving your muscles time to catch up with the demands you’ve put on them during weeks of training and it decreases your risk of overtraining and injury, less is more sometimes!

Sleep is going to be like Christmas to your injured muscle. Your body is at rest and the muscle that’s hurt isn’t being aggravated (in most cases) and can have several hours to carry out the healing process. I recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night in general, and perhaps more if it’s possible, to give the injury more time to heal.

Physiotherapy/Rehab

Physiotherapy is the restoring of physical function and can be useful to be of all ages. It’s often used for people who’ve experienced a stroke for example. However, it is useful for injuries after physical activity. Many injuries can be healed by the body itself and when given the time, but physiotherapy makes the process quicker and less painful. Physiotherapists can give you advice on exercises to help mobility as well as advice on posture to avoid pressure on and weakness in certain areas.ice

Ice ice baby

This is particularly useful for reducing swelling and tension for an acute injury, which is a short term injury caused by things such as a knock during a sporting activity. When injured I usually apply an ice pack to the injury 3 times a day and this had considerable benefit to my recovery. Ice for 15-20 minutes but not longer because this can cause damage to your tissues.

Buy a support/brace for your muscle/ joint

I recently suffered a knee injury, and this was one of the first injuries I’ve ever had in the gym. I developed what is called runners knee, which for those of you that have had this, may know that it can be quite painful, especially getting up and down the stairs. This is where the knee support came in useful. It took some pressure off my knee when walking around. Furthermore, when doing exercises like the bench press which require driving through my feet, it came in handy as an extra support there too. Overall I’d advise a support like this as it helped me recover quicker, so I could get back to training my legs and running.

Avoid training the injured muscle as a primary and secondary muscle group used

In this context we’re talking about primary muscles as the first muscle group used when doing an exercise, for example this is the lat muscles in a seated row or the biceps in a dumbbell curl. If your lats are injured then it is obvious not to train them. However, your lats will be engaged as a secondary muscle to help transfer power during a bench press for example. This implies that you’re better off avoiding training if your injured muscle is going to be trained at all. However, it may be important for some of you to carry on training whether you’re an athlete and must maintain a level of fitness or you exercise for your mental health. If this is you then I’d train but lighten the weight (if the injury is minor) after a few days rest whilst using the other methods mentioned here.

Painkillerspainkillers

I tend to shy away from painkillers and prefer more natural methods of recovery. However, painkillers will take the edge off if you are active during the day or if the pain is hard to deal with. They won’t reduce inflammation but will make it easier to cope with the injury so if the injury is bad, use them!

Learn from your mistake (if there was one)

A common source of injuries is failing to warm up correctly. Now I know many of you may just want to get straight in to lifting those heavy dumbbells but you’re risking injury so take 5 minutes or so to warm up! For an upper body workout you’ll want to use the rowing machine to warm up, and for your legs, ideally the treadmill (personal preference) however the cross trainer and bike are good too!

You may have been lifting too heavy and pulled something so try focusing on technique over weight for a few weeks. Alternatively you could have a weakness somewhere which has caused too much workload on stronger muscles and caused an injury there. For example, when deadlifting you may get lower back pain, which could be an issue with anything I’ve mentioned above. To resolve this particular problem you could try pilates. In general though if you’re getting pain in that area it’s likely because of a weakness there so look up exercises targeted at strengthening the chosen area.

I try to get as close to 10 hours of sleep each night, as sleep is the best form of recovery – Nathan Chen

You may be eager to stay active but just be patient and the injury will go if you follow these steps! Particularly by following advice from a physiotherapist.

The last thing you need is a reoccurring injury! So good luck, I hope these points helped and that you recover as soon as possible!

Any thoughts? Leave a comment below!

Nick

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10 thoughts on “How to recover after an injury”

  1. I had at least 5-6 joint tissue injuries during my lifetime, including a thorn cross ligaments in my left knee. The last one was the most painful as well as it took the longest time to make a recovery (6-8 months). I have got all the advice from my doc just the same as yours. However, he warned me about support and brace because it is a double edge sword. On the one hand, it helps with discomfort and pain while going through recovery, but on the downside, it takes over the function of surrounding muscles making them weaker and can, therefore, cause even more damage to a joint. What do you think?

    1. In response to your question I’d say only wear the brace for short periods of time and not all day! Perhaps just use it whilst you exercise and once you are finished with your workout, take it off. You’ll still strengthen the injured area when you’re giving it some light exercise walking places during the day! Try not to wear it when you’re sitting down as I’ve found this can cause a throbbing pain, but whilst doing some active recovery for example, as long as it’s not too tight and uncomfortable it will help! Hope this works bro!

      1. Hi Nick! I took it off entirely at one point and had realized that I don’t need it at all. A strong muscle around the joint is the best protection. However, the brace comes in handy while recovering. I will remember your advice bro, thanks!

  2. Hi Nick. 10 hours of sleep every night? My body just won’t do that unless it is severely sick and needs to repair itself. I get by with 7 hours on average. I used a knee brace for a couple of months last year after over stretching my knee in a yoga class. It’s good advice to only use it during the class for support and not for the whole day. Recovery took a long time but I’m all good now because I looked after the injury and made sure that I did not make it worse by overloading my knee again.
    I’m with you on the painkillers- I avoid them if possible as they just mask the pain and can make us believe we are better than we actually are which can lead to further damage. Ice, ice, and more ice!
    Cheers mate.

    1. Me too! 7-8 hours a night seems to be either enough or all that I can get before something wakes me up in the morning! However, I understand some are able to sleep longer! Recovery can be a difficult thing so ensuring you do it right is important! Yeah painkillers are a last resort for me really!

  3. As an avid sports fan I’ve literally lost count of the amount of times I’ve injured myself over the years; sometimes much worse than others. You are right, it is so important to rest it up and let it heal completely before you exercise again – something that I am very guilty of as I hate sitting around!
    I have old knee, neck, and ankle injuries that often come back to haunt me, and I’m sure when you have injured something once it is always weaker. Unless, maybe if you let it heal properly in the first place it would then be fine for good.
    I’ve learnt my lesson these days and let things heal; and luckily I heal fast as I bombard my body with nutrients and highly anti inflammatory foods and this makes all the difference.

    1. I have tested things out with recovery from injury, stemming from my starting (and very bad) diet full of saturated fat to a high protein low saturated fat diet. I find that when I eat more greens like spinach, kale and broccoli, they help my recovery. Also, I like to have regular meals to keep feeding the body with nutrients. The last step I do is drink loads of water to transport these nutrients to the muscles to heal. It can be a sluggish grind doing this but it works well accompanied by plenty of sleep! Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. I really appreciate the order in which you listed those steps. Most people for whatever reason refuse to rest and we are almost addicted to being so busy nowadays. But I couldn’t agree more. Resting should always be the number one step for all of us. By doing nothing, we actually accomplish so much but we just don’t see it. Do you think we can alternate between icing and warm compress? Just curious. Thanks Nick 🙂

    1. Yes! Rest and sleep is very important so that we are as productive as possible the next day. I know people who struggle to sleep who meditate in order to rest and reduce stress. Icing is definitely more appropriate, I wouldn’t alternate between the two at the same time anyway!

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