"So, when will I be better?"

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When will I be better?

The million-dollar question – not only is it a question I hear almost daily from patients, but also a question that if I could answer I could retire.

Injuries can be a stressful time in people’s lives.  It can cause undue amounts of pain and frustration and if it lasts long enough, it will affect physical fitness and mental health.  Especially if it is a long-term or chronic injury.  Long-term injuries often come about because we wait to see a healthcare professional, thinking the injury might get better on its own, until the injury becomes more complicated especially since compensation patterns have taken place.  When this occurs, not only does the original injury need to be addressed, but also the changes in movement due to compensation that have occurred – which can make recovery more complicated.

You will definitely find guidelines on injury healing from Dr. Google.  They will often suggest:

  • 4-6 weeks for minor to moderate sprains

  • 6-12 weeks for moderate strains

  • 8-12 weeks for bone healing

However, there are many other factors that will contribute to healing, not sure resting for the above recommended time.  And, how do you go about returning to sport?  Do you circle a date 4 weeks from now on the calendar and then get back to hitting the pavement?

Confused?  What can you do to help support your healing and maybe even speed it up a little bit:

Attending physiotherapy will definitely help you heal faster, but you have to keep in mind one or two 30 minute appointments a week will likely not be the only thing that is going to help heal your injury – there are 10,080 minutes in a week!  This means the responsibility lies on you!  So, what can you do to help speed up your healing? 

Take a look at my Top 8 Tips to healing your injury faster:

1. Make sure you have the right diagnosis!

It is really important that your physiotherapist (and yourself) have the right idea of what the injury is.  A detailed assessment should be done that looks at how your body is moving globally, how your joints are moving and the strength and flexibility of specific muscles.  One thing to keep in mind, you may have had imaging done (X-Ray, Ultrasound, MRI) that found certain issues BUT that might not be the cause of your discomfort – not all findings on imaging are actually causing your pain.

2. See a physiotherapist that will spend time with you!

With any injury, it is important to treat the cause and not just the symptoms (pain).  When you are at your physiotherapy appointment you want to make sure that the physio is checking in with you and reassessing your movement, strength etc. to gauge your progress.  Additionally, they should be providing treatment with hands on techniques and they should be the one supervising your exercises to ensure proper technique is being performed and progressing the exercises as needed to make sure the program you have is appropriate for you.  Too often I hear from patients that their previous physio utilized students or volunteers to help provide treatment and that their treatment consisted largely of modalities (heat, ice, ultrasound or TENS/IFC – tingling machine) – this is not helpful.  Not to say these modalities are completely useless (although I do not use them myself), they definitely won’t speed up your healing as they contribute NOTHING towards healing – make sure your physiotherapist is actively providing treatment and spending time with YOU (rant over).

3. Do your exercises!

Your physiotherapist does not give you exercises for fun or to pass the time in your appointment – they are helpful!  Those exercises and stretches were designed to help correct imbalances in muscles that were found during your assessment and to help treat the cause of why this injury occurred in the first place – so do them!  Remember what was said earlier – there are 10080 minutes in a week, even if your physio appointments are taking up 30-60 minutes of your week, there is plenty of extra time to do those exercises and stretches.

4. Sleep

Sleep is when our body repairs and rebuilds itself.  It is the time when our cells regenerate, our muscles repair from the exercise and stress we put them through during the day and our body works to flush out inflammation and repair connective tissue deficiencies.  This can’t happen if we are not sleeping!  Research suggests we need 5 complete sleep cycles to optimize body rebuilding and repairing.  One sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes.  This means you need AT LEAST 7.5 hours of sleep and the majority of us are not getting that.  Try to plan your day by working backwards from when you need to get up:

Example: If you get up at 5am, to get 7.5 hours, you need to be in bed by 9:30pm, therefore set an alarm to go off at 9pm to signal it is time to start shutting things down and get ready for bed.

5. Proper nutrition

Our body can’t repair if it doesn’t have the proper pieces and some of those pieces come from our nutrition!  You want to make sure you are getting enough protein – a very basic calculation is 1 gram of protein for every kilogram of body weight.  You should be consuming fish oils (Omega 3, 6, 9) as these help to decrease total body inflammation.  Other recommendations would be to “eat the rainbow”, lots of colour in your veggies, including dark leafy greens, make sure that veggies make up the majority of your plate and finally, try to limit sugar.  Sugar is a major player in creating inflammation in the body, which can slow down the body’s natural ability to heal.

6. Drink water

As you can imagine, water helps to flush toxins from our body.  Our bodies are made primarily of water and if you’re not drinking enough, that can be a problem.  Did you know we should be drinking 1L of water for every 50lbs we weigh!  That can mean 3-4 litres for some people!  Help make it easy on yourself, grab a big water bottle and make sure it is with you throughout the day!

7. Keep moving!

Inactivity does nothing good to the body!  You want to keep the blood pumping and your muscles strong, without compromising the healing of your injury.  Talk to your physiotherapist about what exercises you can be doing for the limbs that aren’t injured (ex. Doing an upper body weight workout seated if you are dealing with a lower extremity injury or doing single leg exercises on the right if the injury is on the left).  Also, think about what you can do for the whole body that won’t further your pain – often water exercises are a great option whether it is in the form of swimming, water running or water aerobic exercises.  The water can offload body weight through the joints through the buoyancy and therefore can be extremely helpful with any lower body or spine injuries.

8. Listen to your Physio

Return to activity the smart way by listening!  Listen to your physio on their recommendations for returning to activity and this should also be done gradually – not just getting right back into activity or sport at 100%.  You also want to listen to your body – when you start to build up your rehab exercises and then begin to work towards returning to activity, what is your body saying on how it is responding.  A quick way to reinjure yourself is to return too quickly!  Make sure you are being honest with yourself on how you are feeling both during activity and for the 24 hours afterwards. An increase in discomfort can indicate that your body is not quite ready yet!

Be an active participant in your rehab by utilizing the tips above and also having a great support team (like your physiotherapist) to help you get back to moving!

The Physio Spot: Moving you through life