My brother-in-law, Jay is an active guy, but his running and biking were abruptly curtailed this weekend. While the details still remain a little fuzzy (probably a good thing), Jay fell and broke his ankle in three places. The break was severe enough to require surgical repair, and months of recovery.
Jay is now engaged in a little crutching, a lot of elevating, and waiting while his fractures heal. This brings me to the topic of today’s post, which is how we heal, or how we help or hinder the natural healing process.
More than once, I have treated patients who have had illnesses or injuries, in which they slowed or actually reversed the healing process. One that comes to mind is a woman who was an ultra-distance runner. She came to me because she was training for a 100-mile race while nursing a foot injury. She was healing just fine with a little acupuncture and rest, but felt compelled to test the foot out with a 50-mile training run, just to see how it was holding up. The results were predictable—on race day, she started out well, but was ultimately hobbled by her injury and had to drop out of the race.
While it may seem fairly simple to just get out of the way and let your body heal, there are actually a few things you can do (or not do) to help the healing process along. Among them:
- Get enough rest. Your body heals while you rest and sleep. In fact, you may feel deeply fatigued after an illness or surgery. So grab a book, watch TV, sleep, and allow your body to use its energy to heal.
- Let the glue dry. Allow your injury or illness to heal completely. Resist the urge to “test” your injured limb or your ability to function at 100 percent. You’ll be back soon enough.
- Realize that the older you are, the longer it takes to heal. Children tend to heal before your eyes due to their expansive nature and the fact that they are growing very quickly. As you get older, your body will still heal completely, but it takes a little longer. Don’t compare yourself to your 12-year-old with a broken arm.
- Eat to heal. While you’re healing, it’s even more important to eat as healthfully as possible. Your body is using building blocks to heal based on the food you eat. Make sure you’re getting enough protein, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. At the same time, if you’re laid up and worried about gaining a few extra pounds, realize that once you’re up and around, that weight will come off fairly quickly.
- Heal your spirit. Stress, depression, boredom, fear, and frustration are all common feelings associated with illness and injury. Recognize that these feelings are normal under the circumstances. Talking to friends, family members, or a health professional can be extremely helpful. In addition, finding activities that are relaxing and enjoyable (reading, old movies, learning something new) can help, too.
- Listen to your body. With its incredible wisdom, your body has everything it needs to heal, and will let you know when you’re good to go. If you’re still feeling fatigued, in pain, or just not quite right, you’re still in the healing process, so don’t push too hard. Let your body do its thing.
- Get some acupuncture. Acupuncture can speed up the healing process, alleviate pain, and is excellent for treating stress and mood disorders. It works by affecting brain chemistry in a number of positive ways, as well as increasing the concentration of white blood cells locally where the needles have been inserted. While you’re healing, let your acupuncturist help—you’ll feel better and heal faster.