INJURY AND PERFORMANCE
There are many factors that can aid in the effective and efficient recovery from an injury. Often, when one has experienced an injury it will impact their quality of life in some way. When recovering from an injury it is very important to stay positive, set appropriate goals to attain and achieve a particular level of functioning, know the basics of potential phases of recovery, aid your recovery with proper nutrition and hydration, proper movement and wellness, and to ask for support and help as needed from a professional. Also post-surgical considerations will be discussed as well, related to recovering from an injury.
When a person experiences an injury, it is important to stay positive during the recovery. It may be difficult if the injury has impacted your quality of life and changed your level of functioning or caused significant dysfunction. Often, if someone has never been injured then it can be a very eye-opening experience. Stay positive! Whether that means gaining positivity from family or friends, reading positive and inspiring books or blogs, or digging down deep and providing yourself with positive self-talk. The mental aspect of recovery is often a huge part of the recovery process, and those people that stay positive and driven will have a better outcome.
After an injury and during the recovery process it is important to set goals for yourself. Setting “SMART” goals will improve your success in your recovery process and rehabilitation. Some key questions that will help you set goals are: What would you like to get back to? What do you have difficulty doing right now? What did you do in the past that made you happy and that you want for your life? Working toward a specific goal is a good way to determine your progress and stay on track. It may seem daunting at first to determine what your goal or goals may be, but remember it can be whatever you choose based on what is important to you.
Your goal could be related to function, daily activity, or decreasing pain, as some examples. When setting a goal, a simple acronym can help you to achieve the specific results you want. It’s called setting a “SMART” goal and stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-specific. A specific goal is one that you are very clear about in terms of what it is that you would like to achieve. For example, you may decide you would like to increase your running distance and be able to run further. The goal you set should be something that you can easily measure. So for the above example, the distance could be measured in miles or feet. Achievable means that it is a goal that you may potentially be able to reach. Relevant pertains to the goal you are setting actually is something that you are having difficulty with and/or it is important to you. Time-specific means that there is a time component to the goal. For example, “I would like to achieve this goal in six weeks.”
Depending on the type of injury and phase of recovery, there will be different implications and guidelines. It is important to be aware of where you are in your recovery process and what activities you should and should not be performing. Initial phases of healing from an injury may focus on proper control of inflammation, proper healing of the injury and supporting the area with gentle movement. For example, after rotator cuff surgery the first phase of recovery is safely supporting the surgical site while providing gentle passive range of motion. If the person does too much movement or does not respect the certain precautions and guidelines from the surgeon, then they may actually affect the recovery of the muscles and tendons. The next phase of rehabilitation often consists of pain-free range of motion and the proper activation of the muscles involved. At times, this may mean strengthening in the neutral position while still protecting the injury or it may be progressive strengthening as able. At certain points in the recovery process, the body responds well to a specific load and amount of stress on it in order to heal. While in other phases, the body should not be pushed into pain or beyond a certain level. As a person heals from their injury and effectively progresses through rehabilitation, the goal is often to return to their prior level of functioning. This may related to and meaning work-related activities, daily activities of self-care and even return to sports, hobbies or higher level functioning.
Achieving proper nutrition and nutrients for the body post-injury are key factors in recovery. This will help one support their body and heal properly while having enough energy to perform daily activities. It is important to have accessible, healthy meals pre-made in the freezer for easy access prior to injury or surgery (if you are able to plan ahead). Eating proper portions of protein, vegetables, fruit, whole grains and healthy fats will help one recover faster. Proper hydration is also important post-injury, and one should drink half of their body weight in ounces per day. The body is made mostly of water, so we need to drink enough to help it work properly!
Proper general health and wellness can support an improved recovery process after an injury as well. Strength training, flexibility with stretching and range of motion exercises are often important. Atrophy can set in quickly after an injury, and movement and walking helps to improve strength and mobility as well as general mood and endurance. Walking is great activity for most people, but be sure that you are walking at a brisk pace to achieve that moderate level of effective activity. We should aim for 30-60 minutes of walking per day, at a decent pace that gets the heart pumping. If your injury does not allow you to walk, get creative with achieving your proper cardiovascular exercise. Some options may be swimming, stationary bike, or elliptical trainer. If the area that you have experienced an injury in is not healed enough to start strength training, then focus your energy on strengthening other body parts instead. For example, if you are recovering from a shoulder injury and not yet in strengthening phase, then you could focus on abdominal or lower body strength training in the meantime.
Although it is important to get moving as soon as possible after an injury it is also very important to take care of yourself and give yourself time to rest and recover. Examples of ways to achieve proper recovery and support your body include the use of meditation, yoga, and relaxation techniques or sleep. Meditation is a great way to destress and quiet the mind and body. Research shows that there are ample amounts of health benefits of meditation, such as lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Yoga is also often great for improving your wellness in terms of the movement component, stretching, strengthening and the focus on breathing. This is a great way to affect both mind and body. When recovering from an injury it is also extremely important to get enough sleep each night and allow the body to relax and rest as needed. Most people need at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night to recover, but do not be surprised if your body calls for even more sleep after an injury.
When one has experienced an injury, it is imperative to ask for the help that is needed from a healthcare professional. If physical therapy is indicated, the therapist will determine the proper plan of care to support the injury, properly heal, and return to strengthening, stretching, movement or prior activities as able. Other examples of healthcare professionals that one may need to consult when recovering from an injury are doctors, personal trainers, nutritionists, psychologists and acupuncturists.
Often, when someone needs surgical intervention after an injury there are many feelings of apprehension and overwhelm prior to and after surgery. It is difficult to know what to expect, and to anticipate all the post-operative considerations. The proper preparation prior to the surgery can be helpful, and it is also good to have an idea of what to expect afterwards. It is often very advantageous to have a loved one or family member by your side, as you may feel vulnerable during this process. After the surgery, you may have a specific plan of care or protocol to follow for rehabilitation and recovery. It is very important that one follows this, and works diligently during rehabilitation.
After an injury be compassionate with yourself and do not plan on being able to return to your normal activity right afterwards, as you will need time to build back your energy and stamina. General healing time for most injuries is at least six weeks, then for most people it can take an average of six to eight weeks to actually build strength back in the affected muscles. Of course every person is different, so listen to your body and do what you can. Stay positive and know that, in time, you will reach your goals. Ask for professional guidance as needed and reach out to the appropriate health-care professional.
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