Similar to the way we’ve been conditioning to think the human body is a frail organism destined for collapse, we have also adopted the presumption that physical therapy will “fix” our injuries in just a brief six week timeframe. As cool as this six week bout of PT for 2 hours each week sounds for healing your injury, it is just not nearly that simple. Injuries are complex. Pain experiences are more complex, and the human body itself even more so! PT is here to assist you with restoring optimal movement, while your body heals itself. We all need a sidekick every once in a while, but at the end of the day, YOUR body is the superhero when it comes to healing your injury and resolving your pain.
That being said, I believe physical therapists can be more comprehensive in their sidekick role assisting individuals through an injury. We can give more than just exercises!
*Note: This blog is for both fellow PT’s as well as anybody out there struggling with pain and trying to optimize their recovery.*
Here’s a few tips to implement in addition to the traditional rehabilitation process:
1. Develop a consistent sleep schedule and pre-sleep routine that allows for 8+ hours of sleep if possible - Figure out what time you need to be awake everyday and work backwards 8 hours. You should aim to be in your bed no later than that time. Now work backwards from that time about 30-60 minutes. This is when you should begin your pre-sleep routine every night. Great things to include in a pre-sleep routine are gentle stretching, reading, journaling and/or brain dumping (aka get all your thoughts out on paper) and meditating. Oh, and brushing your teeth, but I shouldn’t have to tell you that!
2. Increase your protein intake - This is a big one for us at ProForm. We are always encouraging those recovering from an injury, especially acutely and post-operatively, to increase protein intake. In doing so, it gives your body larger pools of amino acids to pick from for rebuilding tissues. As a 2a, it’s also good practice to reduce your intake of inflammatory foods as a whole. This will look different for every individual, but if you know a certain food doesn’t sit well with you, try going without it for a little bit while you’re healing. Reach out to us at ProForm for more information if you’re interested!
3. Consider lesser known factors that can increase inflammation - Our current world is loaded with hidden inflammatory agents, such as most laundry detergents, deodorant, and cleaning products. We’re even seeing an increasing amount of research showing the electromagnetic fields from our WiFi devices can increase the body’s inflammatory response. And yes, when healing we need inflammation, but we don’t need 41,972 things causing it all at once. Let’s figure out what we can control and worry about that, and forget about what we can’t. For example, try unplugging your WiFi router at night while you sleep. It may help, or it may have no effects at all. Either way, it took you about 2.5 seconds to try. Oh, and don’t forget to plug it back in when you wake up. I would hate for you to not be able to see ProForm’s Instagram post the next morning!
4. Spend more time in nature - Some may think this is woo-woo, but immersing yourself in nature is associated with increased parasympathetic nervous system activity, which is needed to heal!
5. Gamify your rehab! - Making games of things, especially those that can be stressful and have negative effects on mental health like an injury, is an extremely effective and overlooked strategy in the rehab world. Get creative! A simple way to gamify your rehab is to use a scoring system. Label your exercises as a +1 and movements or actions that increase symptoms as a -1. Try to end each day in the positive. You’ll quickly notice how your exercises feel less like a chore when you create a game out of it. Try gamifying your health process overall if you’re struggling to get on track with your goals!
Now, there are absolutely other strategies for optimizing recovery, but if you can nail these five low hanging fruits, you’re setting yourself up for success. If you’re already consistent in these areas and still struggling with an injury, come see us at ProForm to see how we can help!