Whether you’re a serious athlete, fitness junkie or just want to get back to being able to walk up the stairs comfortably again, injury recovery can be a strenuous and frustrating process. The first thing you will want to do after sustaining a physical injury is of course to consult a doctor, physical therapist or athletic training professional about the proper plan of action for your road to recovery.
However, a large amount of the success of your recovery will be entirely up to YOU. To ensure that you recover well, make sure that you don’t do any of the five things listed below.
Rely on pain killers
For athletes wanting to lace up their shoes again as soon as possible, a seemingly easy way out could be to take painkillers before and after athletic activity. However, this can be detrimental in several ways. First, taking too many OTC painkillers such as Tylenol or Advil, or prescription painkillers, can negatively affect your body in ways that in the long run will be even more damaging than the pain you are trying to recover from. Additionally, using painkillers before working out on an injury can trick your body into thinking that you feel better than you actually do—which is of course, the point, but also very risky if you work out too hard on an injury that needs more time to heal. Instead of using painkillers before lacing up those running shoes for a recovery jog, consider ultrasound or an at-home infrared pain relief device such as LumiWave. These devices can cut down on inflammation and pain through more effective, side-effect free methods.
Ignore your diet
Athletes are used to eating a hefty amount of food every day to keep up with calorie demands. Being sidelined by an injury can often cause one of two reactions—or both. Some athletes will be unable to work out, and so they fear that if they continue to eat nutritiously rich food, they will instantly gain weight. This is simply not the case and you must remind yourself that the body burns between 1200-2500 calories a day by just existing. Plus, you need extra protein and nutrients to help your body repair your injury.
On the flipside, many recovering athletes will take being sidelined as an excuse to relax and eat anything and everything because they are released from a normally strict regimen. This can be detrimental to recovery for obvious reasons: sugar, sodium and processed fats can actually add to inflammation and swelling, increasing your discomfort level. It’s important to talk to your doctor or trainer about what you should be eating during your recovery.
Icing too much
There are many varied professional opinions on icing debated in the athletic training world. However, the more research is performed, the more and more trainers are leaning away from icing as an ongoing treatment for injuries. Recent studies have shown that icing immediately does of course have the intended effect of lowering inflammation and relieving pain; for this reason, icing is recommended immediately after an injury in order to keep swelling in check and numb pain receptors.
However, icing an injury consistently can actually slow the healing process by inhibiting blood flow and cell regeneration in the localized area.
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Part of the reason that you are an athlete—amateur or pro—in the first place, is because you found a physical activity that you love and enjoy. When you can no longer do this activity, it can be very frustrating to have to do mundane leg lifts, squats, walking, ball work or other tasks assigned by your trainer or physical therapist to get you back in shape.
However, don’t give up and don’t slip up. Consistency is a key determining factor in how quickly you will be able to return to your normal activity level. Like brushing your teeth every night, a little goes a long way. Keep at it, even when the tasks seem pointless.
Ignoring your emotions
Depression after an injury is a very real thing—especially for full-time professional or collegiate athletes. Much of your life is absorbed doing the sport that you love, and if that is suddenly ripped away from you, your mind and emotions will likely be experiencing some trauma as well. It’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling about your injury and express your frustration. If you feel that you may be depressed or your mental state is at a point where nothing is helping or improving it, seek professional help.
Sherry Fox is the Founder and Chairman of BioCare Systems, Inc.