If you are into sports or any other physical activity, you have to learn how to recover from injury to return to training.
Sports injuries are almost impossible to avoid. A fall, a hit, a mistake, a simple stumble, or a tackle from your opponent can leave you in bed and immobile for a few days.
You likely feel the anxiety of not knowing when you will train again in this situation.
Unfortunately, this uncertainty can create stress that boycotts the recovery process.
This is why it is so important to plan how to return to training after an injury properly.
In this article, you will learn what happens during an injury, what to do, and how to return to sports.
How does our body regenerate?
I want to tell you a little story about you: you are the descendant of thousands of generations of human beings fittest to survive.
An essential part of this survivability had highly efficient repair mechanisms.
You have inherited them and can benefit from millions of years of natural evolution.
He thinks that during most of humanity, humans’ survival challenges depended mainly on their ability to move, so those ancestors who did not recover from injury well perished under the evolutionary force of the selective pressure.
At that time, they did not know it, but today, with the advances in the knowledge of human pathophysiology, experts can explain this statement:
We are very good at recovering from injuries.
This recovery process is divided into three 3 phases
Inflammation: That fulfills the function of limiting invasions and damage after an injury or wound.
Proliferation: The reconstruction of the damaged tissue begins
Regeneration: The new tissue performs its functions just as well as before the injury.
As you can see, it seems that the body has it under control, but there is still more.
Until recently, it was believed that the jump from one phase to another depended on the exhaustion in the production of the characteristic substances of each phase. For example, Prostaglandins E2 and D2 and leukotrienes B4 during the inflammatory phase.
We now know that this is not precisely the case.
The peak of substances produced in one phase induces the generation of the next step’s implications, which in turn inhibits the previous stage. In other words, the adequate production of prostaglandins (inflammatory phase) allows the release of lipoxins that slow down the inflammatory phase and activate the proliferative phase.
Your body becomes inflamed and then secretes anti-inflammatories
In short, recovery from injury is a highly polished process by natural selection itself and very effective, which means that, in general, the body heals itself.
This resolution consists of precise phases and an active process stimulated by endogenous chemical mediators. Therefore, the body exhibits highly selected programmed patterns of return to homeostasis.
If you suffer an injury, it is normal for you to recover and that the symptoms you feel are part of the solution process.
You will not be able to move until you have to, and you will feel pain as long as your body needs to remind you that you are hurt. Just as your body breathes for you or makes your heartbeat, it also knows how to repair itself. So the best thing you can do is relax and the signals of your body guide you.
Why do some people recover much faster than others?
I will tell you about it in the next chapter, and I recommend that you read it very carefully because you will learn what factors slow down your recovery.
How to recover from an injury
The truth is that multiple variables can accelerate or boycott your recovery and return to physical activity.
Below you will find the most common mistakes made by people who have suffered an injury organized according to the phase in which they are so that depending on what stage you are in, you can know why you recover from injury slower or what to do to move on to next step:
Errors made in the inflammatory phase of a lesion
1) Excess medication
The current anti-inflammatory medication is based mainly on the inhibition of the pro-inflammatory prostaglandin production. It can reduce the symptoms of the inflammation itself but in no case help in its complete remission.
Suppose we understand that an excellent inflammatory response is necessary for the induction of anti-inflammatory substances. In that case, we must change our intervention’s objective by accompanying the process instead of stopping it.
2) Ice application
The subject of ice is quite controversial. There is not enough evidence to be able to generate a recommendation on ice yes or ice no. As I explained in this article, it seems that it does not favor the normal recovery process.
3) Chronic stress
Long-term stress, whether chemical, psycho-emotional, or metabolic, reduces the ability to generate an excellent acute stress response when required.
A suboptimal inflammatory response resulting from chronic stress prevents a fluid change from an inflammatory phase to a resolution phase. This process is also mediated by the nervous system thanks to a powerful initial adrenergic reaction that exhausted adrenals cannot carry out. And a second hormonal wave with adequate cortisol levels.
When the initial phase is prolonged, secondary damage can occur in tissues neighboring the lesion due to the non-inactivation of cytotoxic cells in time.
In other words, in simple terms, if you feel stressed, your body is in a pro-inflammatory state. Suppose during this stress you suffer an injury. In that case, it will be difficult for your body to go from the inflammatory phase to the proliferative phase. This is key because the longer If you stagnate in this phase, the inflammatory substances will affect other tissues near the injury.
Errors made in the proliferative phase of an injury
4) Lack of raw material
As I mentioned above, the proliferative phase’s change depends on producing certain substances, mainly lipoxins and resolvins. Both senses need polyunsaturated fatty acids to be produced, so a diet low in essential fatty acids (primarily omega 3 EPA and DHA) can condition the transition to a growth phase.
In turn, for new connective tissue, adequate-protein consumption, vitamin C, and zinc are essential.
5) Lack of metabolic flexibility
The innate immune system directs the recovery process from injury. The cells involved in the process include macrophages. These types of cells have the characteristic of functioning as inflammatory cells when they use glucose as their primary fuel and as an anti-inflammatory when they use fat.
The inflammatory macrophages are known as M1, and the anti-inflammatories as M2. As you can see in the image, the recovery phases’ advancement is vital for macrophages to make this metabolic transition to the change phase.
People who eat six times a day, do not tolerate windows without intake or 12 hours, and continuously consume glucose have reduced the ability to move from one metabolic activity to another, affecting the recovery process.
Phases of muscle regeneration
Errors in the remodeling phase of a lesion
This phase is characterized by gradually giving physical stimuli to understand how it should reinforce the tissue.
Get into the activity gradually. Reproduces the gesture of the injury without pain and progressively. First, without load, then with your weight, then with extra weight. In that order, necessarily.
6) Do a return to full activity simply because it no longer hurts
Be honest with yourself and listen to your body, understand its limitations, and recognize in time if there is pain. Only in this way will you know if your tissues are recovered.
How to get back to training after an injury
How we interpret this into 6 points to recover from injury and get back to activity:
- That your food does not generate a pre-injury inflammatory context: Avoid processed products and moderate foods with inflammatory potential such as dairy products and cereals,
- Regain your metabolic flexibility: Practice intermittent fasting and alternate the ratio of macronutrients. In the recovery process, you can force the transition to M2 macrophages with a 24-hour fast when the pain at rest has already disappeared.
- Consume necessary raw materials: Eat fish at least twice a week and some viscera 1 time a week.
- Respect your rest: this way, you can stimulate the production of growth factors.
- Avoid analgesics of any kind unless it is essential: The guide to how much you can move is your pain. It is the sign of how you will incorporate the movement in the damaged area. To inhibit it is to recover blindly.
- Make a return to progressive activity based on the injury evidence. In this way, you will understand how it must be reinforced to not relapse.