So you have been seeing your chiropractor for an injury and you have begun to feel better. What’s next? What can you do to help improve your healing process? The answer is active care! While your visit to your doctor is mainly passive, in that you receive care, you can help the healing process with active participation in therapy. This is why your doctor will often give you stretches, strengthening exercises, and nutritional and lifestyle advice during your appointment. Some tips are below:
Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The anti-inflammatory diet is an important part of post-injury lifestyle modification. By reducing or eliminating certain foods from your diet, and by focusing on consuming others, it is possible to reduce the inflammation in your digestive and musculoskeletal systems, and throughout your body. By reducing systemic inflammation, you can improve your healing potential while also improving you immune system! (80% of your immune system is located in your gut!)
Overall, the anti-inflammatory diet consists of eating more fruits and vegetables, and avoiding processed or refined foods. Limit pro-inflammatory foods, such as refined carbohydrates (think baked goods, breads, cereals, and pasta), dairy products, and red meats. Instead, reach for whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa; lean protein sources, such as free-range chicken, wild-caught fish, nuts, and lentils; and spices with anti-inflammatory effects, such as cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger. Limit sugar, and avoid artificial sweeteners entirely. Instead, reach for water, herbal teas, or green tea. Black tea and coffee may be consumed in moderation (about 1-2 servings daily), but it is important to remember that too much caffeine can be detrimental to your health.
While these rules may seem overwhelming at first, try to pick out just one at a time to start making changes. Each week find one nutritional modification that seems attainable, and try to implement it. Little by little, you will find that you have made over your entire diet!
Remember the 10% Rule
After a period of rest after an injury, it may be surprising how much you might feel capable of doing. Because your body is well-rested, it can be easy to overdo it without realizing it. Whether you are doing more housework or returning to the gym, it is important to remember that your old routine should not be your current routine. Roughly speaking, the amount of time lost due to injury should be about the time needed to return to an old routine. However, the longer you are sidelined may increase the amount of fitness gains, otherwise known as deconditioning. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, cardiovascular deconditioning can occur as quickly as two weeks after ceasing physical activity, and most previous fitness gains may be lost as soon as two to eight months after activity cessation. This, too, depends on previous fitness levels. For example, if you began a new fitness routine for a New Years’ resolution and got injured by March, it is possible that most of your fitness gains will be lost with two months of sedentary activity. However, if you have regularly exercised for two years prior to getting injured in March, the deconditioning process will be much more gradual.
It is important to keep all of this in mind when beginning to exercise after an injury in order to prevent exacerbating the condition. A good rule of thumb is to increase exercise by ten percent per week. For example, if your chiropractor has cleared you to return to walking 20 minutes and lifting 10 pounds for 10 repetitions, it likely would be safe to walk for 22 minutes and lift 11 pounds for 10 repetitions per workout the following week. Although these gains may not seem like much at first, they will exponentially increase as the weeks go on, and you should be back to your pre-injury exercise routine in no time!
Drink Plenty of Water
Remaining hydrated is very important on a daily basis, but potentially even more during a period of rehabilitation after an injury. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight, in ounces, per day. If you drink any “anti-waters” such as caffeinated beverages, it is a good idea to drink and additional eight ounces of water per serving. If you exercise, make sure you drink water before, during, and after your work out in order to replenish the amount of fluid lost in sweat.
Your body is mostly made up of water, so drinking water helps support circulation of blood and lymph, which, in turn, helps to flush out any inflammatory chemical out of your body. Drinking water also helps your cells function more optimally by maintaining the important balance of fluid and electrolytes. Muscle, ligament, nerve, and brain tissue, among others, can begin to heal better with proper hydration.
Once you begin to focus on the active care of your healing process, you may notice that you heal more quickly. You may even notice that you avoid future injury because you have made lifestyle modifications to support improved overall wellness. Be sure to consult your chiropractor with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your own active care!