Tips for Recovering After a Minor Injury
We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a run, an ambitious yoga pose, or a bicep curl, and you feel a twinge of pain. Uh oh.
An overextended muscle, sprained ankle, runner’s knee, or any other host of minor injuries can go beyond putting a damper on your fitness routine to affect your day-to-day life. While injuries are frustrating and can force you to slow down for a while, it’s critical to take the time to recover properly so that you can get back to living life at full force in the future.
Read on for our top tips to recover from a minor injury.
Try the RICE Method
The RICE method, an acronym for “Rest - Ice - Compress - Elevate,” is one of the most well-known ways to handle recovery after a small injury.
This one likely goes without saying, but it’s certainly worth repeating. Continuing to use a part of the body that’s been injured will only prolong the recovery process at best, and will cause a more significant injury at worst. The general recommendation is to intentionally rest the injured area for 48-72 hours, but especially for the first few hours after the injury occurs.
Knowing when to ice an injury is key. Icing is most beneficial within the first day or two following the injury to help reduce swelling. Be sure to wrap a cloth, like a towel or t-shirt, around the ice pack before laying it on your skin, and don’t ice the injured area for more than 20 minutes at a time. After icing, let the injured area come back to body temperature by waiting 30 minutes to an hour before laying the ice pack on again.
Gently wrapping a bandage around the affected area will provide a little extra stability while you recover. It can also help minimize swelling by preventing excess fluid buildup. If you find that the area around the wrap starts tingling or turning red, loosen the bandage - you still want to make sure you’re getting adequate blood flow to the area.
Keeping the injured area raised above your heart can similarly help reduce fluid buildup. Arrange pillows or cushions to elevate the area and stay comfortable while you rest.
Keep up with proper nutrition and hydration
Though you may need to be laid up for a few days, now’s not the best time to sit back and overindulge in all your favorite snacks and sweets. Injury recovery relies heavily on good nutrition and proper hydration, so make sure to maintain healthy eating habits to set the stage for a solid recovery.
Don’t skimp on sleep
Our bodies need sleep to repair themselves. HGH (human growth hormone), a hormone responsible for cell repair and tissue growth, is primarily released while we’re asleep. This means that getting a good night’s sleep of at least 7-9 hours is critical in supporting healthy cell and tissue repair. Make sure to get plenty of quality rest to allow your body to do its recovery work!
Invest in injury prevention
One of the best things you can do following an injury is to help prevent it from happening again. Evaluate what caused the injury and if it’s something you can avoid in the future (if you strained your bicep from lifting a weight that was much too heavy, for example). Be sure to use a proper warm-up routine before working out, and consult a physical trainer or coach to learn the correct techniques for your exercises.
When to see your doctor
While you can treat many minor injuries yourself at home, there are instances where you should seek medical care. If you experience any of the following situations, you should seek medical attention right away rather than attempting to treat the injury at home.
Recovering after a minor injury may take some time and effort, but going through the process properly will be well worth it in the long run (no pun intended). Happy recovering!