Posted by: Dr. Jamey Dyson | February 7, 2013

How to Heal from a Strain or Sprain Injury – Part 2

So, it has been 2 weeks since my “humbling experience” and my knee is gradually improving.  The swelling is going down.  I can walk and do a full squat with very little pain.  Running or jogging is still too painful.  As you can imagine, jumping is out of the question.  Gradual, steady improvement – just like I expected.

In Part 2, I want to give you 3 simple, practical things you can do to recover in the best possible way.  These are things I do for myself when I get injured.  I hope you’ll give these a try.  However, be smart about it.

If you feel like your injury is severe enough, you should get checked out by a healthcare professional.  Also, understand that these tips can’t be taken as official medical advice for all the legal reasons you can possibly imagine. 🙂

Okay let’s get started…

1) Use pain as your guide.  Pain is your body’s way of communicating with you about the nature of your injury and whether or not you are causing re-injury.  You’ve got to listen to it.  If certain movements or activities increase the pain significantly, then they should be avoided.  Trying to push through the pain, usually leads to re-injury.

I recommend rating your pain from 0-10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain ever.  You’ll want to avoid activity that increases your pain over a 3.

Just Say No!

Just Say No!

Medication – Taking a bunch of medication like ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, etc. might not be the best idea. Why?  Because it blocks the pain signals that are so vital for you to feel through the healing process.  It is very possible that people taking meds, actually take longer to heal because they keep re-injuring themselves.  They can’t feel when they are causing more injury!  So, don’t take anything unless you absolutely feel like you need pain relief.

  • Example)  Your sprained ankle is throbbing with pain so bad that it is difficult to concentrate, or difficult to sleep.  Consider taking meds to help with sleep or concentration when at rest.  However, don’t take meds so you can do some physical activity and not feel the pain.  That would be bad and could lead to re-injury.

IceIcing the injured area may help or hurt.  Either way, don’t expect some kind of miracle with icing.  There is not much evidence that icing speeds up recovery.  Some people think icing will actually slow down the healing time.  Others are convinced it’s the worst thing you could ever do for an injury.

I’m kind of in the middle on the icing issue.  I think there is evidence on both sides of the aisle.  With my knee injury, I used ice a couple times a day for the first 3 days or so.  Funny thing… as soon as I stopped icing, my knee started to feel much better.  Maybe it IS bad to ice?!?

2) Take it easy, but not too easy.  Look, you just ripped some tissues.  All the pain, swelling, and restricted motion is there for a reason.  It’s your body’s way of saying “slow down”.  However, that doesn’t mean curling up on the couch with a bowl of bon-bons all day.  Try to maintain your normal routine as much as you can, just slower and easier.

  • Example)  I run on a regular basis.  The first week after straining my knee, I slowed it down to easy walking with a slight limp.  I didn’t go as far in distance.  I did what I could do.  I let pain be my guide.

So, you need to keep moving your body and the injury site somewhat throughout the day.  Start with easy range-of-motion movements without resistance.  Remember to keep the pain at a 3 or lower with your movement.

  • Example)  With my right knee strain, the next day I began bending my knee up and down in positions that didn’t hurt much.  I was able to do this standing or sitting.  I would do about 40 bends about 4 times throughout the day.  You could do the same type of thing for a shoulder, elbow, ankle, or  neck strain or sprain.  Just keep the movements at a 3 or lower on the pain scale.
Slow, easy bending of a strained or sprained area is one of the best self-treatments.

Slow, easy bending of a strained or sprained area is one of the best self-treatments.

3) Movement is the key.  You’re aiming for a good strong heal for your injury, right?  Well, movement is what will get you there.  See, you have to understand there are 3 stages of healing with a strain or sprain.

  • Inflammatory Stage (3-7 days) – pain, swelling, loss of motion.  Light movement required.
  • Repair Stage (4-6 weeks) – scar tissue is laid down.  Medium movement required.
  • Remodeling Stage (3-12+ months) – scar tissue slowly turns into more normal tissue.  Full movement required.

For your torn fibers to heal in the strongest way possible, movement stimulation is the key to making it happen.  Without proper movement, the torn fibers heal in a weak, more pain-sensitive way.

Start with easy range-of-motion in the beginning, then gradually increase the intensity and resistance over time as the tissue continues healing and strengthening.  Remember to use pain as your guide and avoid doing movements that push the injury site over a 3 on the pain scale.

  • Example)  I started with non-weight bearing knee bends in the first few days.  Then, on day 6 my injury felt good enough that I could do a full standing squat.  So I did 3 sets of squats for a total of 100.  My knee didn’t hurt much at all during the squats, so I knew they weren’t harming my knee.  My knee was more sore the next day, but not too bad.  This should be done at least 2 days a week with at least 2-3 days in between.
As your injury heals, add resistance and weighted movement.  Make sure the pain does not go over a 3.

As your injury heals, add resistance and weighted movement.
Make sure the pain does not go over a 3.

With time and movement, I’m confident that the recuperative power of my body, and yours, has everything it needs to heal strong and sure.  Oh yeah, don’t forget that eating well and thinking well are also vitally important for optimal healing!

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.  I hope these tips help you out.  If you have any questions or need clarification on any of these things, please contact me here or in the comment section below.

Also, feel free to share any other natural and healthy strategies you have found helpful in healing from a strain or sprain injury in the comments below.

Have a great week!
Dr. Dyson

Dr. Jamey Dyson is a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) and Certified Chiropractic Wellness Practitioner (CCWP) who has been in private practice at Advanced Chiropractic in Salem, Oregon since 2000.

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