Monday, June 6, 2011

Magic: Stages of Healing

Do you have any idea how amazing the ferns are in Seal Bay Park right now? Magic. Especially at 6am...chest high, young shoots, glistening with morning dew as far as the eye can see... No photo- cuz I think you should go and see it for yourself:)

Last week I was looking for a little magic. Post MOMAR and post calf strain I was on one foot for 2 days doing the old 'hop-along', coaching with my feet up and coasting on my bike beside my clients and classes. It was not a promising sight- just over 2 weeks out from my next race.

And then, magic.

72 hours of magic to be exact.

The body is an amazing machine and the re-construction that occurs in the 72 hours following and injury are phenomenal. Here is your athletic therapy lesson for the day...

Phase 1: Acute Phase
This is the initial reaction of body tissue to the injury- typically 48-72hours. The body is working like a dog to protect, localize and rid the body of the thing that is causing harm. Tissue death occurs due to injury, lack of oxygen/disrupted circulation and digestive enzymes spilling over into healthy cells. Yick.

In the first hour: Vasoconstriction occurs to decrease blood flow and limit damage.

In the second hour: Vasodilation brings swelling and an increase in red blood cells as well as those involved with clean up and repair. This 'edema' may actually appear in the first 15 minutes with minor injuries or a few hours later with more severe situations.

'Chemotaxis' (cool word) occurs- attracting a range of chemicals to the injury that will aid in preparation for healing. Lymph flow (heightened immune system response) increases during this time as well.

'Phagocytosis' follows - and your garberator cells (neutrophils & monocytes) gobble up the bacteria and dead cells loitering in the injured area.

Phase 2: Repair Phase
72hrs to 6 weeks. Tissue repair occurs only when the area has become clean and all the cellular debris has been removed. The ability of your body to regenerate tissue is related to nutrition and general health on top of your treatment program. The development of collagen (tissue) is stimulated by vitamin C and oxygen. Circulation to the area is therefor beneficial during this phase.

Phase 3: Remodeling Phase
3 weeks to 2 years post injury. Scar tissue production continues and the fibres can take 3 months to 2 years to gain full strength. Ligaments can take as long as 1 year to remodel. The strength of this new tissue depends on the forces applied during this phase. Force too early or too excessive will extend the healing process.

Different tissues (bone, cartilage, ligaments, skeletal muscle, nerve) have special healing limitations and timelines....but that is the idea.

There are a few key things that you can do to help your 'a-team' while they are working overtime rebuilding you on a cellular level. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. These are the cornerstones to a quick recovery and often underrated. Anti-inflammatories can play a big role in the first 2-3 days following an injury as well - I use a natural one called Traumeel (oral and topical).

After inflammation has calmed down you can move onto self treatment that increases the circulation to the area: contrast therapy (hot 2mins/cold1min*2-3), gentle massage and light stretching to align the new tissues & fibres. Ice baths, numbing dips in the river and rolling pin treatments are my poor woman's treatment options- and have helped me a tonne this week.

And so, 72 hours after severely straining my calf, I was able to walk again, just like magic.
Wednesday I rode my bike for an hour and a half very carefully.
Thursday I hiked uphill and ran the downhills and flats for 1.25hrs during at Adventure Running.
Friday I ran 20k flat.
Saturday I ran 30k...but started feeling some bad weirdness in the rest of my leg:(...telling me to chill out and give it a rest already.
Sunday I rode over 2hours on the mt bike without any issues.

I am hoping for a little more magic this is funny how goals shift and change along the new goal for Kusam, in less than 2 weeks, is to get to the start line feeling healthy and pain free.

Keep the magic alive,

1 comment:

The Sénéchals said...

Thanks for the great refresher on healing phases - I preach it all the time but not that succinctly!