Whether you are post surgical or recovering from a sprain, strain or fracture, you should anticipate a lot of education from your physical therapist to help maximize post injury outcomes. Regardless of your diagnosis, when attending physical therapy you can expect some formal review on posture/body mechanics, safety issues for your particular injury, range of motion/flexibility activities, strength/stabilization exercises, and home program instructions to name just a few things. This is definitely a physical therapist’s area of expertise in the musculoskeletal realm, but to truly maximize your outcomes, read up on other things you should consider.
We truly are what we eat! When recovering from illness or injury this is magnified. An incredible amount of energy is used during recovery so we need to be mindful of how we are fueling our bodies. To get the necessary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help with healing energy, whole foods need to be your focus in a rainbow of different colors. Yes, that does mean you have to eat your veggies and lots of them in addition to fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts. Be mindful of any food allergies or sensitivities you may have!
Make sure you are drinking plenty of water (roughly ½ your body weight in ounces per day is a general rule of thumb). Water helps hydrate your healing tissues and also to flush out various toxins that may have collected during the injury process.
Also all fluids are not created equal. An article by Dr Joel Fuhrman references studies showing caffeine and colas cause you to excrete calcium and promote bone loss. In addition to weakening bone, diet soda specifically has been linked to kidney dysfunction, obesity and diabetes. Stick to water and avoid highly caffeinated and sugary beverages during the healing process.
Sleep is restorative and necessary when healing. Be sure to get your 8 hrs + each day and don’t be surprised if you find yourself napping more, as it is just your body telling you it needs to recharge itself.
Check out different pillow positions for different pain areas here.
Studies have linked chronic stress to many different health problems from heart disease, anxiety, headaches, and sleep disorders to gastrointestinal issues, obesity and even diabetes. Psychological stress has also been proven to affect wound healing so learning to minimize and manage stress after an orthopedic injury or surgical procedure will be a benefit.
First take a moment to reflect on what your specific stressors are. Make note if there are any that you have some level of control over so that you can modify or even avoid these activities. There are many activities that can calm or reduce stress from exercise/yoga, massage, visualization, and biofeedback to meditation or breathing exercises. Since breathing is something we do all day, this is a great place to start by learning to engage and train the diaphragm. We often call this belly breathing.
To do diaphragmatic, or belly, breathing, lay on your back and place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in through your nose and try to fill the belly with air making your hand rise while keeping the chest relatively relaxed and immobile. Slowly breathe out through the nose or the mouth until all the air has been exhaled and your belly is once again flat. Once you get good at engaging the diaphragm, breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. Do this for 4 breathing cycles to help reset the system, decrease pain and aid relaxation. After you have mastered the technique lying on your back, try it seated, standing or even lying on your belly for different levels of feedback and training.
Many times other therapies can be a great adjunct to physical therapy, and actually speed healing. Discuss with your physical therapist, and if it’s a safe option for you don’t hesitate to branch out a bit.
Your overall health, wellness, mindset, and lifestyle choices will have an impact on your progress in physical therapy so hopefully some of the suggestions above help get you on track for a speedy and full recovery. In the meantime, stop in Athletico Physical Therapy for a complimentary injury screen and start the healing process!