Physical activity and sports-related muscle injuries wear out our parts, and the wear and tear from more aggressive activity happens more quickly. Many professional athletes could back up this claim based on personal experience. Nevertheless, exercise done properly and safely is one of the best therapies for almost everything. Even people with terminal cancer live longer and better if they exercise.
Your body is a wondrous machine that can regenerate its parts. It can repair skinned knees, knit broken bones back together, and even regrow joint cartilage. However, that does not mean it will not suffer pain and other lasting effects from chronic injury.
What causes chronic injury pain?
Sports-related muscle injuries often occur because of repetitive strains and micro-trauma. Most of this pain is rooted in the muscle and fascia, the tissues throughout the body connecting the muscles, tendons, and other cartilage. Contrary to what you might think, the pain does not come from inflammation as we have been taught, or scar tissue.
Muscles develop and accumulate pain-generating trigger points, as the tendons anchoring the muscles develop small tears. Then, when the muscles contract against the injured tendon, the trigger points fire and cause more pain.
How does the body heal itself after a muscle injury?
Suppose you sprain your ankle. Some of the ligaments that hold the ankle joint together get torn or overstretched. However, the body immediately responds by prompting a healing process that can take weeks, depending on the injury.
Right after the sprain occurs, your body releases inflammatory chemicals that initiate the repair process. As a result of the local toxicity from metabolic waste, local blood vessels leak fluid and white blood cells into the injured area. As a result, the white blood cells release enzymes that clean up the injured tissue and your ankle swells. Spurred by the combined cells and fluids, additional fibroblast cells find their way to the injury after about three days. These cells rebuild and regrow the injured ligaments.
The process of healing typically continues for several weeks or even months. Broken bones and injured ligaments reach approximately 90% of strength after about six weeks.
What slows down healing, and how can I accelerate it?
After injury, there are some things that we think will facilitate the healing process but will actually slow it down. For example, anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and nicotine in the blood can slow down recovery or even stop it altogether. In most cases, ice can also decelerate metabolism and healing.
If the injury is not too severe, the most important thing is to get out of the way of your body and give it a chance to recover. Also, you will repair best if you can avoid or stop smoking and stay away from anti-inflammatory medications.
If you want to be proactive, take extra vitamin C and zinc. Studies on wounded soldiers showed the importance of these nutrients in healing. Finding a provider near you who offers vitamin C IV treatment may prove beneficial. You can also apply moist heat to the injured area to increase blood and nutrient supply and speed up metabolism.
Letting the body heal itself may not be enough to recover fully. If you suffer from tennis elbow, golfers’ elbow, bursitis, or plantar fasciitis, seeking treatment to treat the pain and prevent further injury is important. Dry needling, trigger point injections, and myofascial release are usually the most rapidly effective therapies for these and similar sports injuries. If trigger point injections do not provide enough relief, the tendons and associated ligaments may also require treatment.
If I do not heal enough, what are my options?
A sprain can leave you with loose joints and partially torn tendons. For partially healed injuries, we can get our body to “restart” the healing process by re-injuring the body part with the help of a qualified medical professional. This may sound unsafe, but some effective treatments and therapies can give the body a second chance to recover fully.
To retreat an injury, a provider makes a tiny, controlled injury with a needle technique, an injection of dextrose and novocaine (prolotherapy), or an injection of your own platelet-rich plasma. Acupuncture provides for the weakest body reaction and slowest healing, compared to the use of platelet-rich plasma or stem cells. Once the body’s healing has restarted, fibroblast cells will emerge in about three days to rebuild the injured part.
The professionals at Blatman Health and Wellness Center have extensive experience treating various sports injuries. We combine the best nutrition and recuperative therapies to help adults and children of all ages return to optimal physical activity.