Why Your Injuries Aren’t Healing Properly

injuryOveruse injuries are something I see in my practice on an almost daily basis.  Whether it’s low back pain from running, shoulder pain from lifting weights, or neck pain from being in the wrong position for too long, most of us have experienced an issue related to muscle pain.  Most of us have been told what to do when it comes to dealing with the immediate trauma-rest, ice, compression, elevation, etc.  But what about the majority of you who aren’t getting relief weeks, months, or sometimes years after the initial trauma?

What I’m finding is that the typical approach to soft tissue injuries (muscles, tendons, ligaments) is actually leading to further damage, and a long-term weakening of tissue.  Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections, the mainstay of treatment in conventional medicine, can help with short-term pain relief, but is rarely conducive to proper healing.  The whole point of the inflammatory response is to facilitate collagen repair, allowing tissue to fully heal, restoring it’s function back to normal.  Instead, our mainstream approaches to soft tissue healing are more degenerative in nature, setting people up for future pain and injuries.  So, what are the alternatives?

Acupuncture-While some people are afraid of it, acupuncture is actually one of the only therapies I know of that addresses pretty much every component of soft tissue healing.  Acupuncture not only works to diminish the perception of pain, but actually stimulates collagen repair through the release of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF).  It also acts upon receptors in the central nervous system to create a sense of euphoria that will ultimately make people less prone to the psychological manifestation of chronic pain.

Proteolytic Enzymes-It’s possible that you’ve been told to eat pineapple after a dental surgery or procedure?  This is often due to the fact that pineapple is naturally high in bromelain.  Bromelain is one of several proteolytic enzymes that falls into the category of fibrinolytic agents.  Like nattokinase, serrapeptase, and other fibrinolytic agents, bromelain helps to speed up the healing response in areas of injury, getting rid of pain and swelling more quickly, all the while not interfering with the repair process.

Manganese-This trace mineral is extremely important in the tissue repair process.  Not only does it serve as an essential nutrient for laying down new collagen, but it also increases levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), an antioxidant that helps to “clean up” chemicals in and around the area of injury that can lead to further tissue damage.

Herbs-There are a number of herbs out there that can help to minimize pain, without interfering with the healing response.  Some of the more commonly used examples include turmeric, ginger, and boswellia.  In addition to acting similarly to many of the commonly used NSAID drugs (without the side-effects!), these herbs also help to prevent platelet aggregation, allowing for a more rapid and complete healing response.  Plus, these herbs can usually be tolerated at high doses, without the kidney, stomach, and liver damage that can come with conventional anti-inflammatory and pain medications.

This list is by no means exhaustive, just a small sample of what can be done to both alleviate pain AND keep you from needing to revisit your doctor every few months with a recurring injury!  If you’ve been struggling with pain or a chronic injury, and felt like you had exhausted your treatment options, just know that there are other options out there for you to try that could be much more beneficial in the long run (literally)!