Several years ago, I spent a whole summer nursing a muscle pull in my hip. I’m not sure what I did, but it seemed that anytime I tried to hike, run, or bike, I would get what felt like a lightning bolt right through my hip and groin. I took my hip to the doctor, and he just gave me massive doses of ibuprofen, which didn’t do a thing.
At the time, I can remember thinking that it would never heal. When it started to feel a little better, I would go out for a short run, only to be stopped cold by the lightning bolt. I felt like I was doing everything right, but my hip wasn’t cooperating, and it ultimately had me questioning my health and ability to heal.
I see this same scenario with my patients, where they have been dealing with an injury or condition for a long time, and questioning whether it will ever heal. Whether it’s shoulder pain, a funky knee, anxiety, or heartburn, people who are suffering need to have a little hope and the confidence that their body is programmed to heal.
While your body will heal in its own sweet time, here are a few ways to help speed up the process:
-Get out of pain. Whether you have a back spasm or a recent surgery, it’s difficult for your body to heal when you are ringing the pain bell. That’s because pain is incredibly stressful and zaps your energy. It’s important to do what it takes to get comfortable, whether that’s acupuncture or analgesics—it’s the first step to healing.
-Get a grip on your stress. I realize that being sick, incapacitated, or in pain is incredibly stressful, especially if it goes on for a long period of time. Remember however, that stress affects everything in your body, and high stress only aggravates any condition that you already have. In addition, it slows down digestion, immunity, and any other systems that aren’t needed for the fight or flight response. Deep breathing, exercise (if you are able), acupuncture, massage, and even reading a favorite book are a few ways to help tamp down stress.
-Trust that your body wants to heal—is programmed to heal. Many patients become anxious because they perceive that they aren’t getting better and assume that they never will. Anxiety is stress’s bigger brother, and being anxious only gets in the way of the healing process.
-Rest. Your body needs energy to heal. If you are using your energy trying to maintain normalcy, you’re not giving your body the energy it needs. Understand that your body rejuvenates and heals while you’re resting—that’s why we go to sleep every night. You’re healing, so you just need a little more.
-Remember that your energy and nutrients comes from the food you eat. If you are trying to recover and heal, this is not the time to eat from a box or the drive-up window, go on a diet, or skimp on the good stuff. Think lean proteins, whole grains, and lots of deeply colored plant-based foods.
-Ask for help. If it’s going to completely wipe you out to get to the grocery store, ask a friend or family member to go for you. Many people think that by asking for help they are imposing on others or admitting to being weak. The reality is that most of your friends and family members are looking for ways to help you get better.
-Resist the urge to test yourself. I have seen several patients completely negate any healing by pushing it to test their progress. It’s human nature to want to see if you can still do a back flip, jumping lunge, or pitch a baseball game, but resist until you’re completely healed.
-Understand that it takes time to heal. We tend to lose sight of that fact when you can relieve your symptoms in hours with a prescription medication. However, masking your symptoms is not the same thing as healing, and for many illnesses and injuries, healing just takes time.
-Enlist professional help in the form of acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, or other healing modalities. Depending on the nature of your illness or injury, any one of these practitioners can help you through healing sessions, education, and instructions for home care.
Ultimately, acupuncture was the route I took to heal my hip injury. Out of desperation, I went to a practitioner who diagnosed my injury, pointed out my poor biomechanics, prescribed some stretches, and performed a handful of acupuncture sessions. Within two weeks, I was pain-free, a little wiser, and well on my way to forgetting I ever had a bad hip.