Avoid over-straining the area, elevate (eg put your feet on a pillow, try to have the injured area level with or slightly higher than your heart to help with fluid drainage and reduce swelling) and keep warm (ice may be beneficial in the first 24 hours rest-ice-compression-elevation but thereafter keep the area warm)
Try to get at least 8 hours sleep per night â€“when you are sleeping your body is in the best state to repair and regenerate itself.
Omega-3: (fish oil or flax seed oil for vegetarians). This is a natural anti-inflammatory, it benefits the heart and helps to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and acts as an 'internal moisturiser' to reduce pain, swelling and stiffness.
Glucosamine & Chondroitin: A natural anti-inflammatory that helps to heal damaged cartilage and lubricate joints. Often used to help manage osteoarthritis, also good for promoting recovery in connective tissue for acute and chronic injuries, excellent for injury to joints, damaged or decreased cartilage and connective tissue.
Ginger: It is a natural anti-inflammatory herb, add grated ginger to hot water and use a cloth or towel soaked in the ginger water to make a hot compress which can be applied to the injured area to help reduce swelling.
Vitamine C & E: Powerful anti-oxidant vitamins needed for tissue recovery. Most good multivitamins will contain a sufficient dosage for daily needs when taken with a good diet.
Creatine & L-Carnitine: For torn or pulled muscles, creatine and carnitine are amino acids that help to speed up the healing of microscopic muscle tears and protect against further damage. Often used for aching muscles in weight training athletes.
Spirulina: This is a 'superfood' that is high in anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals (can be taken as a tablet or powder). It is a dried algae that is rich in vitamins and minerals and easily absorbed by the body (note that spirulina is high in all essential vitamins except for Vitamin C).
Avoid if allergic to shellfish, seek advice if taking blood-thinning medication (eg warfarin, aspirin).
According to traditional Chinese medical philosophy, a regular balanced diet of cooked/warm foods will enable your body to generate the qi and blood needed to support recovery. We recommend avoiding cold and raw foods (eg too much salad, ice-cream etc) as these are harder for the body to break down and absorb, whereas warm or lightly cooked foods (eg steamed, flash-fried etc) are easier to break down and absorb so as much energy as possible can be used by the body to rebuild and repair.
Specific foods that promote recovery and should be added to your diet including; dark green leafy veg (kale, spinach, broccoli etc), beetroot, watercress, asparagus, pumpkin, sweet potato, garlic, onions, stewed fruit (especially peaches or pears), black/kidney/adzuki beans, all mushrooms, ginger, dates, cherries, molasses, liver (especially beef liver), rosemary, cinnamon, turmeric, bone marrow (eg real chicken soup), tuna, mussels, oysters, eggs, black sesame seeds (crushed), gogi berries (soaked in water â€“not dry), miso, marmite, slow cooked meat/stew. Drink plenty of water (either warm or room temperature, avoid ice).
Foods to avoid/reduce: Raw salad (a little is ok but too much is too taxing until fully recovered), cheese, coffee, ice-cream, alcohol, cold drinks (including protein shakes and smoothies â€“no more than one per day!) oily or fatty foods (no fish and chips!) and refined sugars (eg chocolate biscuits, coco-pops etc).
Gentle exercise is good to get the blood and qi flowing, to encourage good lymphatic drainage and reduce scar tissue build up. Follow the advice of your practitioner on when to begin strengthening exercises and physio rehab.
Gentle massage every day will help to speed up recovery; any oil will work, try using an Arnica Massage Oil if there is bruising, swelling or pain in the joint.
Consider using a support bandage when moving around.
Moxa is a warming herb that helps to move qi and blood, relax the muscles, reduce swelling and scarring. It can be applied directly to the skin or by using a moxa-stick which is held over the area and then burnt. You will feel a warm sensation -similar to a TDP-lamp but more intense. Ask your practitioner if moxa would be suitable and how to use it for your injury.
Deborah Tanguy BHSc, MBAcC
Lead practitioner at Wholebody Acupuncture and a registered member of the British Acupuncture Council with a special interest in treating women's health and injury recovery.