Injury Recovery and Soft Tissue Support

May 7, 2018 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Injury Recovery and Soft Tissue Support
Athletic injuries, falls, trauma, and overdoing it with chores and work can often lead to various soft tissue injuries. Soft tissues injuries affect tendons, ligaments, and muscles. It might be the low back or a shoulder that gets stiff or sore. Maybe its repetitive ankle sprains. When these injuries happen, often the thought is to just take a break from the activity and let the injury get better on its own. Symptoms might subside, but many will find it turns into a nagging problem. Pain medications might make it feel better for a short time, but it keeps coming back.

Smart nutritional support during an acute injury is like starting a savings account early in life. The dividends pay off the more proactive you are earlier in the game rather than starting late. Nutritional support just after an injury can make a substantial impact on recovery and getting back to work or back in the game.

When an injury of any type of occurs, there are three phases of healthy recovery. Phase I is the acute phase and occurs within the first 3-5 days after the injury. The body is in a protective mode during the acute injury with lots of inflammatory chemicals released.

Phase II is the subacute phase and usually takes 4-8 weeks for the body to repair and remodel damaged tissue. Less inflammation is present than the acute phase and the body is working hard to repair damaged tissue. These are general time patterns seen with common injuries.

Phase III is considered wellness care if inflammation and tissue repair has been managed well and healed. Tissues may still be microscopically remodeling, but tissue integrity and function has been restored.

If the injury is not fully repaired, for example an athlete running on a partially healed sprained ankle, then the body goes into Chronic Phase. Chronic phase means that the initial injury has not fully healed and scar tissue and adhesions build up and connective tissue become fibrotic and inflexible. Spasm, weakness, or tightness in tissues occurs. This phase can last for months or years with the eventual outcome of arthritis or degenerative joint disease.

Lack of pain doesn’t always mean that the injury has fully healed. Signs of incomplete healing may be felt as loss of strength, impaired range of motion, stiffness, soreness, changes in balance or agility, or simply a nagging ache that flares up from time to time.

The goal is to intercede and support the body with adequate nutrition during the acute and subacute phases of care. If the body fails to have the right nutrients, then incomplete and delayed healing occurs, i.e. Chronic Phase.

Tissue injuries cause significant amounts of immune-inflammatory compounds to be released. This is what causes the swelling, redness, and pain. Several different immune-inflammatory chemicals are released with tissue injury, such as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), interleukins (IL-1, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6), other enzymes (Cox-1, Cox-2, 5-Lox) and prostaglandins (PGE1, PGE2, PGE3).

Some amounts of these compounds are needed to help the body heal as they are involved with tissue healing and remodeling. However, high levels and chronic output of these compounds lead to chronic pain, tissue degradation or breakdown within cartilage cells, tendons, ligaments, and bone. Repair deficits, chronic inflammation, and ultimately degeneration occurs. The goal is to help the body complete the natural healing process and tissue remodeling so it doesn’t go into degeneration.

Young and old athletes, individuals injured on the job or in motor vehicle collisions, surgical recovery, falls, or any other manner of injury can use nutritional support to help recovery. We have heard numerous stories of individuals surprising their physicians at how well and quick they recover compared to others. Our body needs many different types of nutrients for function. Aggressive support can often help the body heal in remarkable time.

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