About a month ago, I pulled a muscle in a big way. I had just finished a really good (hard!) weight workout and was cooling off and stretching. Suddenly, boom! A muscle between my hip and lower back had me on the floor barely able to move.
In the weeks since that initial pull, I’ve been nursing it back to health with stretching, gentle strengthening, acupuncture, and physical therapy. However, it’s not healing as quickly as I would like, and I’m beginning to get a little antsy. In two weeks I am going on a week-long backpacking trip, and my body needs to be 100 percent. I’m torn between doing the right thing, which is to just let my body heal, and running, hiking, etc, to get ready for this trip.
Which brings me to the point of this post. As an acupuncturist, I am always thinking about the process of healing. And when the healing needs to be done by me, it’s an opportunity to gain a little more insight. I realize that while it may seem fairly simple to just get out of the way and let my body do its thing, there are actually a few things I can do (or not do) to help the healing process along. So here’s my To Do list for anyone recovering from an injury or illness:
- Get enough rest. Your body heals while you rest and sleep. You may feel deeply fatigued after an injury, illness, or surgery, which is your body’s way of telling you to take it easy. Get enough sleep, put your feet up during the day, and rest.
- Resist the urge to “test” your injury or your ability to function at 100 percent. This is my personal challenge, but I realize I have to let the glue dry. Allow your injury or illness to heal completely. You’ll be back soon enough.
- Realize that the older you are, the longer it takes to heal. Children tend to heal right before your eyes due to what the Chinese would call 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 helpful.
- 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.
- Start back into your routine slowly and let pain be your guide. If it hurts during or after an activity, you shouldn’t be doing it. For example, my muscle pull is preventing me from running, but I can walk pain-free all day long, which is fine for right now.
- Get some help. While I like acupuncture because it can relieve your pain and speed up the healing process, there are other options that can also help you get back on your feet. I use and have recommended physical therapy to a number of my patients—with rave reviews. Also effective is massage and chiropractic, depending on the nature of your injury or illness.
Recovery is a process, and while it may feel like you have no control, you actually can help things along. Give your body the rest and time it needs, as well as good food and a little help from your friendly acupuncturist (or PT, chiro, etc.) Then stand back and let your body do its healing thing.