Level Up: Expediting and Optimizing Recovery
two women tennis players standing against a wallWhen we consider fitness and health, much of the focus is on maximizing performance, achieving. Let us not forget the ever-lurking adversary though: strain. As you pursue your best, and redefine your limits, you'll get hurt. Injury can't always be eluded; so, we need strategies for expediting healing and optimizing recovery. Below, we'll discuss keys to resilience, steps of recovery, factors that facilitate rehabilitation, how perspective expedites recovery, and the way injury should only lead you to your best.woman stretching during a run

Keys to Resilience
We know that injury is inevitable. The only impenetrable shield is your resilience. Resiliencethe ability to withstand, or quickly recover from, challenging conditionsis not only important for getting you back in the game quickly; maximizing your resilience minimizes the damage of any injury. Maximizing your resilience also has psychological and emotional benefits including, building confidenceknowing you have the strength to get through anythingfortifying your self-esteem and self-conceptafter all, you were able to weather that struggleand increasing your "challenge reserve," or your ability to soldier through tough times, and come out better, not beaten. How can you maximize your resilience and power through injury? Here are several tips:

  1. 1. Recognize the extent of your injury, and treat it accordingly: Don't try to diminish or downplay what has happened, as this can make the damage persistent and exacerbate it. Begin treatment, launch an "attack," that addresses all dimensions and the full extent of your injury.
  2. 2. Diligently implement your recovery plan: Now that you know the extent of your injury and what is required to treat it, ensure that you dutifully implement your recovery or "action" plan. Treat your recovery like a job, with daily tasks that must be fulfilled. Don't skip any days and don't put yourself last. Yes, other duties will call; but, your health and wellbeing are paramount. Make the necessary changes in your schedule to place your recovery first, and establish the supportsincluding placing yourself in the right environment and surrounding yourself with the right peoplethat will help you do so. Prioritizing your recovery will expedite and optimize it, ensuring complete, successful recovery. 
  3. Regularly evaluate your progress and healing: Frequently measure how well you're doing. Are you making some progress each day? Are you hitting the milestones? Are you recovering within the prescribed timelines? Even if you answer no to at least one of these questions, don't get disappointed. Reach out and determine, with your team, what needs to change to make satisfactory progress. And, don't hesitate to do your own research in finding effective treatments. The solution may lie in a method, food, or mineral that's unexpected. Ensure you have medical professionals or trusted practitioners available for objective evaluation and perspective, along with your self-assessments.
  4. close-up of woman's arms, covered with skin grafts, to treat burnsNever doubt that you can overcome this: Even when you're in the throes of pain or you're forced to sit it out for a while, never think that you can't get back. People have overcome the odds numerous times. You can be one of them. Confidence in your strength, and the appropriate techniquesthrough exercise, diet, and treatment or rehabilitationwill get you where you need to be.
  5. 5. Strategize and ready yourself for the next challenge: Just as you don't want to be consumed with doubt regarding your ability to bounce back, you don't want to wallow in the past, brooding over the injury and any consequent setbacks. You need to stay firmly in the present, glancing at the future, and preparing for the even bigger challenges yet to come. Maybe you need to work more on your strength and flexibility. Perhaps, you need to increase your endurance, and the ability to go longer. Addressing these issues both help prevent further injury and prepare you for even greater obstacles ahead, allowing you to minimize adverse impacts later. Additionally, this approach ensures that setbacks, like injuries, end in moments of triumph rather than trials of despair.
Before we can maximize our resilience though, we need to successfully complete the four stages of recovery. We'll briefly discuss those next.  

Steps of Recovery
All recovery journeys are different (depending on the type and severity of your injury, your baseline level of fitness, and the availability of resources to aid in your recovery); but, all recoveries require undergoing, and managing, these four stages: 1) bleeding; 2) inflammation; 3) proliferation; and 4) remodeling. Bleeding can last up to 24 hoursdepending on the extent of tissue damage, structures and vasculature that may have been impacted, as well as the quality of carewith this stage setting the foundation for overall recovery. Minimizing bleeding and appropriately treating wounds will quicken recovery and lessen overall damage. Of course, in the event of serious injury, or the potential for serious injury, immediately seek medical attention. Inflammation is the next stage, typified by bruising, swelling, and limited, or lost, function at the site of injury. Inflammation may also come with increased temperature or fever. This second stage has two phases, protectionduring which blood rushes to the site (hence the redness and swelling that accompany injury), activating pain and prompting phagocytosis, the process during which white blood cells combat germs to prevent infection and hinder movement toward forestalling further injuryand early repair, which sets the stage for the production of new cells and restoration of the injury site. This restoration stage is known as proliferation. During proliferationcommonly beginning 24 to 48 hours after the initial injury, and lasting up to 3 weeks, once the majority of scar tissue is formed"blast" cells inundate the injury site, converting the fibrin (an insoluble protein that serves as a primary component of blood clotting and is generated in the event of bleeding) matrix to a systematic unit that initiates the generation of new cells and tissues, to replace the damaged ones. In the proliferation phase, new blood cells will also form, further bolstering the healing process. Studies indicate that the rate and effectiveness of the proliferation stage are mediated by diet, exercise, and levels of psychological stress. Finally, there is the remodeling stage, in which the cells and tissues produced during proliferation are refined into mature, specialized cells that restore movement and functionality at the injured site. Remodeling can take months or even years, depending on the severity of injury and the type of tissue impacted by the injury. Physical therapy and nutritional supplementation are just two factors that may affect the rate and eventual outcomes of tissue repair, the overall remodeling process. (Biddell, 2023)young man going for a layup, another man guarding him

Factors that Facilitate Rehabilitation
We just learned that several factors influence the recovery and rehabilitation process, namely exercise, diet, and state of mind or mental wellbeing. How can you adjust these "inputs" to maximize your recovery? Anti-inflammatory foods like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, avocados, and peppers form the foundation for recovery (Bogert, 2023). High-protein, whole foods like mushrooms, artichokes, beans, quinoa, tuna, poultry, and other lean meats also facilitate recovery (Ward, 2022). Plus, zinc, omega-3 (contained in nuts and oily fish), vitamin D, and magnesium aid recovery.  Low-impact exercisesincluding stretching, ambulating on stairs or escalators, balancing exercises, lateral band walks, calf stretches, mini-squats, and lateral raisesthat enable your body to rehabilitate without overexertion allow even, consistent healing (Amory Urgent Care, 2024; Huizen, 2023; Mahaffey, 2018). Level of fitness at injury onset, also impacts recovery time and quality; so, maintaining your fitness, and daily activitypre- and post-workoutare crucial (Putukian et al., 2021; Zambon, 2021). Active recovery is working muscles after exercise, such as jogging or swimming (Zambon, 2021). Walking, cycling, yoga, and self-massageincluding myofascial release with a foam rollerhave proven beneficial (Zambon, 2021).  In a 2017 study, researchers determined that 10 minutes of active recovery, at 50 to 60% of the athlete's effort, contributed to building strength, flexibility, and resilience (Mota et al., 2017). Getting deep, restful sleep daily has been shown to enhance recovery outcomes (Chennaoui et al., 2021; De Sousa Nogueira Freitas et al., 2020; Markovic et al.,2021). Keeping a positive frame of mind, staying optimistic, and managing stress have also been proven to help healing and injury recovery (Schemitsch & Nauth, 2020; Zheng et al., 2020). Avoid processed, high-fat foods and minimize, alcohol consumption to prevent interference with cell production and tissue repair (Rosa et al., 2017). And, eliminate refined sugar (Ward, 2022). To be at your best, you must do your best.

Perspective Expedites Recovery
older couple in a standing yoga positionAs mentioned, state of mind, perspective, plays an instrumental role in recovery. Symptoms of depression, pessimistic thinking, and PTSD are directly correlated with negative outcomes following treatment for traumatic injuries (Schemitsch & Nauth, 2020). In fact, up to 56% of patients suffering from orthopedic trauma exhibit signs of depression (Schemitsch & Nauth, 2020). Conversely, pre-surgery optimism was shown to have an indirect, but still significant, positive effect on perceived knee function a year after surgery; a substantially positive, albeit indirect, effect, according to practitioner appraisal, on knee function a month after surgery; and, a positively influential effect on rehabilitation adherence six months after surgery in a 2020 study (Williams et al., 2020). Essentially, having the right mindset is among the best treatments. Believebetter yet, knowthat you'll get better. And, every time you remember your injury, shift your focus to how you can be stronger, and better, than you were before. Visualize how you'll be at recovery and anticipate what will happenhow it'll be betterafter you've recovered. Let this vision motivate you, push you forward, even during the hardest times. 

Let Injury Lead You to Your Best
We see that injury can really be the entrance to renewal. In recovery, you learned lessons about what you could do and discovered a strength, a reserve, you didn't know you had. Reflect upon, and always remember, these insights because they'll guide you through the next, and even greater, challenge. Stowe these hard-won mementos, the treasures of trial, and wear these sterling scars proudly, as it'll help others who are treading the same path, or soon will. How can you pass these lessons on, and pay it forward? Serve as support for others, and mentor them through their pain. Pain should never be in vain; let it always be the first step toward your strongest self. Forget about getting back to 100%; you're well on your way to surpassing it. 


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Biddell, S. (2023). The 4 stages of healing. https://www.chipperfieldphysio.ca/blog-1/the-4-stages-of-healing

Bogert, M. (2023). Nutrition for injuries: How eating healthy helps recovery. https://foothillsrehab.com/blog/nutrition-for-injury-recovery/

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Huizen, J. (2023). Exercises for stroke recovery: A guide. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/exercise-for-stroke-patients

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Preston Anheusen

Date 2/5/2024

Seminal Wellness Team

Date 2/5/2024

Greta Sjorgen

Date 2/8/2024

Seminal Wellness Team

Date 2/8/2024

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