Let’s not sugarcoat this: you got hurt. Maybe it was your fault. Perhaps you let your pride get the better of you, and you agreed to play tackle football with the teenagers in the neighborhood after one of them called you “old.”
Maybe it was an honest accident and wasn’t your fault at all. What matters today isn’t how you got hurt, but what you do to recover from that injury.
Before you say “eh, it’s nothing. I’m fine” and try to go about your day like usual . . . stop!
Pushing through the pain is only admirable when women are giving birth or when an actor pretends to be a superhero in a movie. In real life, pushing through—aka ignoring—the pain could exacerbate your injury and make things worse. You might even cause permanent damage!
What You Need to Know for a Healthy Recovery
The most important thing you need to know for a healthy recovery is that every injury is unique because every person is unique. So even if your sister-in-law had this exact same injury last year, what worked for her might not work for you.
This is why it is important to see a doctor and get your injury checked out. Your doctor can help you put together a plan that will work for you.
What Are Your Treatment Options?
When it comes to joint and muscle-based injuries, there are three basic options:
1. Ignore it and do nothing
We’ve already talked about this a little bit. Pretending that you didn’t get hurt is only temporarily good for your ego. That said, there are some injuries in which time and taking it easy is the only thing you can do.
Sprains are a good example of this.
Even if you’re pretty sure this is going to be the way to go, you should confirm with your doctor.
For tears and certain types of joint injuries, repairing the injured tissues and cartilage with surgery is often the go-to. Most of these surgeries add a few weeks or even months onto your recovery time frame.
While it’s normal to feel freaked out when your doctor tells you that you are likely going to need surgery, know that this isn’t always the only option available to you.
3. Regenerative medicine
Regenerative medicine is a newer technique in which a doctor uses stem cell therapy, sometimes in conjunction with a process called PRP. These processes use your body’s own stem cells and platelets to help “jump start” your body’s ability to repair itself.
There are pros and cons for each of these treatment options. Let’s break them down.
Doing Nothing: Well, it's certainly cheaper—at least in the beginning. And it can make you look super tough, which might help you earn some street cred.
On the downside, though, you will probably just exacerbate the injury, which means it will be harder to fix and the recovery process will be longer and more complicated (and likely more painful).
Surgery: This type of treatment is painful and has a long recovery time. It's also the riskiest as even surgeries deemed routine carry some risk of complications. Even during recovery, surgery carries with it a risk of infection and other post-op complications (like blood clots). Still, for certain injuries, it's the medically sound choice.
Regenerative Medicine: This treatment offers the shortest and simplest recovery process. Patients are often able to walk out of the clinic the same day as their treatments and report a notable improvement in just a few weeks. And because the procedure consists of injections, there aren’t any surgical complications to worry about.
Will You Need Rehab?
Probably. Rehabilitation and physical therapy are a good idea for joint and muscle injuries, especially for those that require medical intervention. This is something that many people forget to consider when evaluating their treatment options.
Working with professionals to rehabilitate your body after these injuries is of critical importance. In addition to helping ensure that your injury heals properly, your rehab will help build up your body’s strength and endurance, which can help prevent the injury from recurring.
Diet & Exercise
What you eat while in recovery will play a direct role in the recovery itself. It’s true! In fact, you likely already know this. It’s why you drink Gatorade and chow down on a protein bar after you finish a workout—you want to replace your electrolytes and give your muscles a shot of protein to kick-start the healing process.
When you are recovering from an injury, it is important to eat foods that will help speed up that process. And no, Doritos do not count.
Aim for foods that are rich in Omega-3s, antioxidants, Vitamins A and C and protein. Reduce your intake of carbs and fatty foods.
And remember: just because someone told that you need to rest and take it easy, doesn’t mean that you need to be completely still (unless your doctor says so).
Low impact exercise like yoga and Pilates are good ways to keep your body fit while you recover. Even if you’re laid up on the couch, there are stretches and movements you can do, that don’t require standing and can be done while keeping your injured area immobile.
Despite what you might have read on social media, there is more to self-care than simply pampering yourself and giving yourself excuses to indulge. Self-care is also about doing what you need to do to make sure that you stay healthy, physically, emotionally and mentally.
Good examples of self-care include:
- Making sure to get enough sleep at night
- Taking your vitamins
- Maintaining personal hygiene: daily bathing, teeth brushing, skincare, etc.
- Spending time with people you care about and enjoy
- Taking time to yourself when you need it
Remember: every injury is unique. Get your injury checked out by a doctor and create a treatment and recovery plan together.
Ask your doctor to recommend some diet and exercise tips so you can stay active even while you’re taking it easy. And make sure you talk to your doctor about how you are doing mentally and emotionally as well as physically—especially if your injury is severe. They can help you with these things.
Don’t self-diagnose. And remember: Google is not a doctor and shouldn’t be consulted instead of an actual human.