From minor muscular issues to bone fractures, if you're injured it can be extremely frustrating, especially if the healing process is taking its time. So what can you do to speed up your recovery and get back on your feet?
Qualified Osteopath Anna Roberts explains how injury recovery works, the factors which impact healing time, and how to speed the whole process up to keep you in optimum shape:
How long does injury recovery take?
It depends on the type of injury you sustain, but generally speaking: healing takes time. We can predict a rough estimate on how long it may take for an injury to heal based upon which tissue is involved. For example:
- Bone fractures and minor muscle injuries: these typically heal a lot faster, from weeks to months.
- Tendon or ligament: these take longer, from months to a year.
Recovering from bone fractures and minor muscle injuries is quicker because of their rich blood supply, which means the tissue healing process can get well underway. Ever heard people say that it is better to break a bone than a ligament? There is your answer.
Although, it isn't as simple as a quick fix. Somebody's ability to heal is influenced by a whole host of other factors – each of which can impact the body's capacity to heal effectively. Here are a few ways you can help yourself for a speedy recovery:
Your immune system and injury recovery
The stronger your immune system is, the better its ability to act effectively. The process of tissue healing is complex, with different immune cells being involved in different stages of tissue healing and repair.
Essentially, your immune response is what physically starts the initial tissue repairing part. So if your immune system is tackling a nasty cold or an underlying bug, this could cause a delay in its response to injury healing. Giving your immune system that extra boost will certainly speed up your healing time.
✔️ Try this: Dark green leafy vegetables and colourful berries are great immune boosters.
Self-care and injury recovery time
If I compared a patient who has good general health, exercises often, eats a nutritious diet and gets plenty of sleep versus an individual prescribed multiple medications, who is less active with little nutrition quality and minimal sleep, I can almost be certain that the former will be the one to speed through their recovery. Your body is a representation of your general health and physical wellbeing, so it's no surprise that there is a correlation with tissue healing time.
Correlations have been shown between decreased healing potential and alcoholism, obesity and smoking. Some systemic health conditions, for example history of cancer or autoimmune disease, may also contribute to slightly longer healing times.
Despite ageing being a natural process, it is fair to say that as we get older, the systems in our body can be a little less efficient. Don't let these reasons stop you from trying to improve your general health; it is never too late to start!
The importance of sleep and injury recovery
Ensuring you get sufficient sleep is essential for optimum healing. Body tissues need the chance to recover. When we sleep, the brain triggers necessary hormones for repair processes and we also produce more immune white blood cells. Having less than seven hours sleep has shown to increase the risk of developing a cold by a third and lead to fewer blood vessels, essential for recovery.
Another study showed in the athletic population, a minimum of eight hours sleep can prevent risk of injury. With this in mind, increasing your hours of sleep could be your answer to a faster recovery.
Exercise and injury recovery time
It is often assumed that you should put your feet up if you're injured, but exercise is a vital part of your rehabilitation. Keeping active comes with a number of proven benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, better response from the immune system and reduced pain sensitivity.
Don't be afraid to get your heart beating; you can do whatever activity or exercise you find comfortable from swimming to running. Alternatively gentle yoga or stretching can make you feel good. As long as movement is comfortable and pain-free, you are pretty much good to go.
The level of exercise will be relevant to the injury, so get some help from a rehabilitation specialist if you need some further guidance. Fitter people recover faster!
Stress and injury recovery
Stress seems to crop up all the time in health articles, for a good reason. High levels of stress can delay your healing time because chemicals released during a stressful response hinder immune action. It can also directly affect your pain levels, increasing your sensitivity as an individual.
We are made to tolerate certain levels of stress, but excess stress can have negative health benefits. So don't be surprised if those busy few weeks leading up to that important deadline hinders your injury healing.
Nutrition and improved injury recovery
Eating the right nutrients is essential to assist tissue healing and repair, so stock up on the following foods to boost your recovery time:
Protein is instantly in demand when we have an injury for the repair process, with animal protein providing the highest quality source. Other good protein alternatives include fish, eggs, full milk and Greek yogurt.
Oily fish also provides excellent anti-inflammatory properties as a source of omega-3.
Zinc aids in tissue growth as well as being a good immune fighter; it is also found in most cells throughout the body. Organ meats are the richest sources of zinc followed by nuts, seeds and chicken.
• Vitamin A
Increasing your intake of root vegetables provide a high source of Vitamin A, a vitamin excellent in boosting the immune system.
• Vitamin C
Another vitamin essential for recovery is Vitamin C, which aids in tissue repair and helps absorption of calcium for cartilage and bone health. High source of Vitamin C can be found in tomato, kiwi, peppers, broccoli and citrus fruits.
So as you can see, our favourite refined carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta), sugary treats and caffeine don't provide much by means of tissue healing nutrition. However there is no need to fully cut these out, just save them for weekend treats.
Last updated: 18-09-19