Updated 10/8/23; Originally posted 1/8/23
It is hard to patiently wait while your body heals from an injury. No matter whether you have strained your shoulder, tweaked your knee, pulled a hamstring, or angered your wrist, the same process of healing must occur from within you. This post explains how to support the speedy healing of your injury using the concepts of Functional Wellness blended with Zoa’s expertise in working with injured and post rehabilitation clients. If you have questions, just ask!
- Calm Your Brain to Reduce Pain
- Take the Strain Off the Injured Area
- Put Your Nervous System Into a Healing State
- Homeopathic Injury Support
- Focus Your Inflammation on Injury Healing
- Feed Healing with Great Nutrition
- Sleep Longer for Increased Healing
- Stimulate Healing with Heat
Calm Your Brain to Reduce Pain
Injuries hurt when they happen and afterwards. Pain is an excellent disciplinarian – pain means stop! Your brain responds to pain signals by trying to protect you from further injury. Pain limits your movements, lowers your confidence in yourself, and generally makes you cranky. Being in pain is a stressful situation for both body and mind. Pain shifts you out of a healing state.
Learning new ways to reduce your pain level will speed your healing immensely. Pain pathways between body and brain are either fast and mylenated or slow/achy and unmylenated. Either way, I offer these ideas for calming your brain for the purpose of pain reduction:
- Distraction: If your brain get distracted by other thoughts and sensations, you will feel less pain. The brain resources for thinking and feeling will be shifted away from the pain. Meditation and prayer, dry skin brushing, a warm bath, music, self fascial massage, friends, and much more can provide needed distraction for your brain so you can stop focusing on the pain.
- Magnesium: This mineral is an important pain reduction tool acknowledged by everyone from anesthiologists to your grandma. Magnesium has 2 ways of reducing your pain levels – blocking the movement of the pain related neurotransmitters within the brain and relaxing the muscles themselves. Many of my clients find that the Threonate form of magnesium works well for pain reduction since it is the one form that can cross the blood brain barrier. Others find the magnesium contained in an epsom salt bath takes away their muscle based pain and relaxes their mind at the same time.
- GABA: This neutrotransmitter plays a large part in your brain’s calm down. The inhibitory nature of GABA makes it easier for you to feel less pain, more joy, and handle stress, and lower your anxiety. GABA is the inspiration behind the popular pain medication gabapentin. I much prefer the idea of supporting the self generation of GABA or temporary use of a good liposomal GABA and L-Theanine supplement (like LipoCalm which available through me to my clients).
- Hyopthalamus: This section of your brain keeps you in homeostatis. If you are cold, the hypothalmus sends instructions to the brain and body to heat you up. If you are in pain, it sends instructions for how to lower your pain level. If your hypothalmus needs a boost, a red/infrared light session is just the thing for you!
- Oxytocin: This hormone floods through your brain and body and is known as the “feel good” hormone. When your brain is full of oxytocin, pain feelings can’t get through! Oxytocin is released when you hug a dear friend, receive physical touch, laugh with your friends, and of course during and post orgasm. Oxytocin does not stay around long, so you will want to choose frequent opportunities to make more!
It is very hard to think clearly when you are in pain. If you need some help filtering through your options for healing your injury, let’s set up a time to talk.
Take the Strain Off The Injured Area
When working with injuries, we want to support the injured area so it has to work less. This might include supporting the stability of the joint itself (like a knee brace) or taking the load off an injured muscle (such as attempting to not use it). There are so many ways to take the strain off the injury and give the body time to heal! Here were my strategies when my shoulder was bothering me:
- Stability Support: I found that the hardest position for my shoulder to be in for a long period of time was sitting and typing on my computer. I placed a rolled up towel under my armpit so my arm had less weight pulling on my shoulder muscles and had no problems while typing. I only needed to do this for a few days because of the other shoulder work I did too.
- Movement Support: It was painful or uncomfortable to lift my arm so I made my arm lighter! I opted to lift a bent arm instead. I opted to support my arm weight by wrapping a flex-band or flex-loop around my arm “just so” in order to provide the fascial support that my mind was seeking for pain-free movement. I chose positions where the movement was easier – I love side lying for shoulder work! I adjusted my personal yoga practice – down dog felt awesome but plank not so much.
- Sleep support: Sleep is so crucial to healing that you must be comfortable enough to get fabulous sleep. I had to temporarily change my sleeping position in order to provide support for my cranky bits.
- Human Support: I had to ask for help. Ugh!! As an independent, strong woman, this is often the hardest thing I do. I got help manipulating the 50 lb bag of chicken feed (not that I did not lift it!). I asked others to share in the physical work so that I did not have to push myself.
Note that I never stopped moving my arm and using my shoulder, I just adjusted how I did which ensured I would not develop “frozen shoulder”. You will need your own set of “take the strain off” tools depending on what is going on with your body and what your lifestyle looks like. I am happy to help you make that list and support your personal healing journey.
Put Your Nervous System into a Healing State
Your nervous system has two states – Sympathetic or Stress and Parasympathetic or Healing. All day long, in theory, you switch back and forth between the two states. Exercise is stressful – on purpose – and moves you into a sympathetic state. Digestion after a meal happens best when you are not stressed but in a parasympathetic state. Engaging in an argument with a coworker or family member brings you into sympathetic dominance. Hugs, orgasm, and deep breathing shifts you back into parasympathetic dominance.
When working to heal an injury as quickly as possible, spending more time in a parasympathetic state is important. This healing state time includes sleep but should include more daytime hours as well.
How will you reduce the time you spend in a sympathatic state? Smiling and deep breathing while you drive instead of yelling at the people in front of you? Gifting your children the opportunity to think for themselves and accept their resulting mistakes? Releasing responsibility for something that does not bring you joy and healing?
Homeopathic Injury Support
I have bought my fair share of creams and ointments at the store hoping they help someone with their discomfort and healing. They are ok. They help more than hurt usually. Homeopathy offers healing support to the body on an energetic level as well as a pharmacological level.
The 2 homeopathic creams that I suggest to my injured clients both come from well established German Biological Medicine sources. They are amazing in their abilities compared to what I had at home from my local stores. Which one is right for you depends on the nature of your injury – one is more muscle oriented and one is more connective tissue oriented. Your body will tell you which one it needs the most or if both is better than just one alone! I used 3/4 of my tube when facilitating the healing of my shoulder – applying it just before sleep and just after waking. I wonder which one your body wants? Let’s talk and find out!
Focus Your Inflammation on Injury Healing
Inflammation is crucial to the healing process. Your body’s acute inflammation response is what turns on blood clotting to stop bleeding, sends immune cells to ward off invaders trying to sneak in at the injury site, creates new tissue to close wounds, and repairs damages muscles, tissues, and more.
Inflammation causes trouble when it stays too long and becomes chronic. Excess inflammation causes pain, swelling, and poor healing since fluid movement through the tissues is compromised (resulting in increased pressure on your nerves).
How do you direct your body’s inflammation response towards your injury?
- Start with reducing sources of chronic inflammation that you have let creep into your diet recently. Shift the “yummies” back out of your diet. Lower your sugar and alcohol consumption during the healing process. Focus on Feeding Healing with Great Nutrition.
- Add red/infrared light therapy to the injured area (at least) or the whole body (if you can) to both reduce chronic inflammation and stimulate healing
- Choose anti-inflammatory foods and supplements to support your healing including omega-3 fats, richly colored vegetables and fruits, and spices known for their anti-inflammatory properties
- Support the immune system activity that begins in your gut by encouraging a healthy microbiome
- Keep your body moving in spite of your injury. Movement stimulates the flow of lymph fluid through the body. Your lymph system acts like your body’s trash pick up service. Take a walk if you can. Do micro-movements and isometrics if you can. Stand up and sit down if you can. Movement is medicine for so many reasons! I help people move their body throughout the injury healing period. Come see me!
Feed Healing with Great Nutrition
Your body spends much of your sleep time repairing itself from life. When your body must boost its self repair work beyond normal levels, you require additional repair supplies for healing your injury quickly and easily.
In my Functional Wellness focused world, this means eating more, eating better, and choosing foods that fueling your healing state.
What ingredients does your body need to heal?
- Protein – ingredients used to build any new body part – you must eat protein and be able to digest it (break it down into amino acids)
- Water – your blood and lymph fluids must flow in order to bring healing ingredients to the injured cells and the waste products away from the area before they cause unneeded inflammation
- Minerals – enzyme ingredients that activate all processes but particularly those needed to build and heal
- Anti-Inflammatory Fatty Acids – essential component of your new and repaired cells – they require healthy fats in order to create sturdy and pliable cell membranes (their breathable borders)
- Carbohydrates – energy that comes with Vitamins and Minerals – this is not the time for sweet treats but your body absolutely needs fuel to burn in order to power your healing
One meal that fits the bill is: Baked sweet potato with melted grass-fed butter, organic spinach or other raw greens, pastured bacon, sausage, or pistachio nut pieces, sprinkled with a dash or two of ume plum vinegar accompanied a glass of HEALed water with a shot of BEAM Minerals. If you would like more help creating your personal healing nutrition plan, let’s find time to talk!
Sleep Longer for Increased Healing
You can eat the healthiest diet possible and still heal slowly if you are not sleeping for long enough. Sleep is a time set aside for repair and healing. During the day you are eating, moving, thinking, digesting, and so much more. Sleep is when you heal. If you are recovering from an injury or surgery, encourage and welcome additional sleep into your life.
For many people, going to bed a sleep cycle early works better than extending your sleep in the morning hours. Take a healing nap mid-day – a real nap long enough for healing (1.5 hours?) not a little 20 min cat nap. Sleep is healing work – get to work! If you have trouble sleeping in general and moreso right now, I can help.
Stimulate Healing with Heat
When I was young, I was taught to manage an injury by alternately applying heat then ice (cold) then heat again. Now I know more up to date recommendations to follow when you are concerned with the speed of healing.
Heat brings blood flow to generate healing the injured area. Increased blood flow can often create additional pressure on the tissues which has a tendency to hurt. Cold ice stops blood flow and numbs the area. So, applying heat then cold is partly about healing and partly about keeping you from feeling the injury. There is a better way.
When my shoulder was injured, I opted to keep the area consistently warm but not hot by:
- Taking warm showers more often to encourage whole body hydration and blood flow – lest I be taking away from somewhere else in the body in favor of my shoulder.
- Using the Infrared Sauna for longer times at lower heat settings (no sweating for me) while keeping my arm and shoulder immersed in the heat
- Sleeping with a purposeful layer of fleece that wrapped around my chest and arm to cover all the areas that I sometimes stick out of the covers in order to pet a cat
- Choosing clothing to warm my shoulder area, wrists/hands, neck, and feet/ankles to keep the blood flowing where it was needed most without getting uncomfortable in the rest of my body.
I experienced no pain using these new ice-free recommendations because I also followed the other suggestions in this post!