How to recover from an injury

hand injury

I recently suffered from an injury due to a fall and thought, what better way to help my readers than a blog post about how to recover from an injury? The timing could not have been better so let’s get into it.

If you want the short version and don’t want to read my personal account with explanations, here are the steps:

  1. Prevent if you can
  2. RICE protocol first 24-48 hours
  3. Seek out professionals as needed for targeted treatments
  4. Begin with slow mobilization for the first 2-4 weeks
  5. After 4+ weeks you should be rebuilding strength

Prevention:

Recently, I slipped up and fell, on a hard, concrete surface. The first thing I want to point out in regards to injury recovery is the obvious but often overlooked prevention. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – I live by those words daily as a practitioner, often citing this for my clients, and that’s because it is 100% true. In hindsight, I should have listened to my body’s warning signs which told me I was already fatigued and overworking myself. Alas, athletes such as myself (and potentially you if you’re reading this) tend to ignore this conventional wisdom and do the thing anyway.

Some ways to prevent an injury are:

  • Pay attention to the signs of fatigue and do not overwork yourself
  • Learn how to walk on the ice
  • Learn how to fall properly
  • Warm up well before engaging in physical activity

I see a ton of injuries throughout the year, which vary depending on the season. Sports-related injuries tend to occur more often in the spring and summer, and often due to improper warm up techniques and accidents. In the winter, it is common for me to see injuries from shoveling, falling on the ice, or car accidents.

Recovery:

Now, if injury cannot or was not prevented for whatever reason, you need to focus on your recovery. Of course, if the injury calls for it, see your physician first. This includes broken bones, sprains, strains, tendon tears, cartilage tears, etc.

First steps:

If you are cleared from a physician, or your injury is minor, first aid follows the RICE protocol for the first 24-48 hours. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

Here’s how that looks in practice:

Rest:

I was lucky in that when I fell, a major winter storm came in, allowing me three full days to rest. This prevents further injuring the area, and allows the joint time to heal.

Ice

I iced the area immediately after I fell and for the first 3 days. Icing helps to slow the inflammation process down, and helps to control the initial pain. Never place ice directly on the skin!

Compression:

Normally I would use an Ace bandage, or K-Tape, but this wasn’t possible due to the the location of my injury. Since I had an injury to my sits bones, it was difficult for me to achieve full compression of the area, but I did occasionally apply pressure with my hands and it sometimes felt better to lay on it. Compression is thought to provide support and control swelling to an injured area.

Elevation:

I tried to keep the area elevated by placing a pillow under my pelvis. I tried to find the most comfortable positions I could, so sometimes that was on my side, sometimes face down, and sometimes on my back, but I really just listened to my body with what felt best. Elevation is thought to also control swelling.

Caveat: In my opinion, some inflammation is a good thing, as it is your body’s natural response to an injury. Inflammation brings white blood cells into the area to help it heal, and is important for providing support and protection. Additionally, pain is a helpful strategy our bodies use to keep us safe, since it forces us to keep off the injury. RICE protocol should not be utilized to completely stop these natural processes, or for longer than 2-3 days following an injury, it should only be utilized to help you get through those first couple days.

Next steps:

After the initial 48 hours it is time to start recovering. Start mobilizing the area by returning to work, gently and slowly getting back into your usual routine, and see a chiropractor, physical therapist, and/or massage therapist.

I returned to work after the snow storm passed, with limited issues.

I scheduled a gentle chiropractic visit at Pascoe Chiropractic. They use a technique called DNFT (Directional Non-Force Technique). This is a gentle form of chiropractic, in which there was no risk to my injury.

Even though I am a massage therapist, I did not schedule a massage right away (gasp!). I had a very good reason for this, though – it’s because my injury was on bone, not soft tissue. Thus, a massage would have been ineffective for this particular injury. Other injuries, such as sprains, strains, pulled muscles, etc. would have called for a massage after the first 48 hours.

Although I didn’t get a massage, I did do some gentle cupping on myself with silicone cups.

Continuing on:

It’s important to not go stagnant following an injury, and it is very easy to fall off the exercise bandwagon after this. It’s due to many factors such as routine disruption, pain, or emotional distress, but it is imperative you begin to start working the muscles to aid in your recovery. So, after the chiropractic visit and the first week of immense pain wore off, it was time to start rebuilding.

I started slow and small with some gentle stretching and light body-weight exercises. I started with just 1-2 days of exercise per week for the first couple weeks following my injury, and began working up to 3-4 days of light exercise, and after a month I was back to my normal 5 days a week. I made sure to work through my pain-free range of motion, and kept the joints moving.

I kept up with my chiropractic visits about once a week for the first 4 weeks.

Just shy of 4 weeks, I scheduled a massage, but informed my massage therapist of my injury. Since this was a bone injury and not a muscle injury, it was best to avoid pressure on it. If it were a muscle injury I would have had her work on it directly. She ended up doing some gentle mobilization, and worked on the surrounding soft tissues that were affected by the fall.

After the massage, I still had some leftover inflammation in the the joint which restricted my range of motion. To mitigate this, I put K-Tape on my hip to allow for some space in the joint capsule. The star shape helped to lift the fascia from the joint. I left that on for about 3 days. If you would like a tutorial for this, check out this video.

This is how the k-tape looked

At last:

Now, since I did all of these things to recover from my injury, it has been a little over a month, and I am feeling back to normal! Time, patience, and diligence are needed to recover from an injury, along with some help from pros. I’m back to exercising 5+ days a week, and my pain free range of motion is back to my pre-injury range.

I hope you don’t, but if you do find yourself injured, I hope this guide provides some help for you. Above everything, listen to your body but don’t stagnate. If you’re looking for a Massage Therapist familiar with injury recovery to help you through the process, book an appointment with me today.

Comments

  1. Samuel Alfred says:

    Well written, great attention to details for laypersons. Thanks again for the shoutout! Keep up the good work, serving people with love and excellence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *