Making a speedy and complete recovery from injury

Originally published in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza (link), April 28, 2011. Some of you may know, but I haven't been keeping up with column-writing because I was hit by another skier, shattering my kidney and spleen and landing me in the ICU. During the course of my hospital stay, I noticed that every active friend who came to visit was themselves recovering from something — knee, back, or nasty flu.

Ideally, we want to guard our health so we don't get sick or injured, but sometimes, bad things happen. Once they do, what steps can we take to make a speedy and complete recovery?

First, you need to supply your body with everything it needs to rebuild. I've said it before, but good diet is essential to good health. Make sure that even if you aren't up to eating as much as usual, everything you put in your body provides your key nutrients. Eliminate empty calories and anything that further stresses your system. Refined carbohydrates need to go. For some, gluten and dairy are also an issue. Pesticides, artificial colors and flavors, heavy metals and anything else that sounds like poison is. There's no place for them in your healing body. Right now, a diet isn't about losing weight. It's about being strong and well.

Take a quality multivitamin, plenty of B, C and D vitamins and fish oil. Your body needs water and oxygen. Drink plenty and breathe deeply.

Quality, restorative sleep is essential. Avoid caffeine, stress and any stimulants in the late afternoon and evening. Give yourself time to get a good eight hours. If you think you don't have time for eight hours, you're wrong. You will be more efficient and productive if you make this part of your life. If your life is truly too busy, start looking at what you do that is less important to you than healing and find a way to get rid of it. If time isn't the issue, but you just can't sleep, melatonin and/or L-theanine at night can help. Both are natural and safe.

Next, make sure your body doesn't have to deal with anything which will take energy away from healing. Look at the physical, mental and emotional stressors in your life and start systematically eliminating them. Has your house gotten a good cleaning? How about your teeth and gums? Do you really want your body to have to deal with whatever is in that packaged food that seems so convenient? How about those mental and emotional stressors taking so much energy from your healing? For some, keeping a journal for a week or two will make it easier to see which things are worth less to you than having your health back.

Blood flow is critical to healing an injury. I don't believe in complete rest and immobilization unless you have an injury where your doctor has told you it is necessary. At the same time, you don't want stress an injured area. Ask your doctor if it is safe to gently move your injured body through a limited range of motion. Blood flow brings nutrients and oxygen to tissues that need it and helps remove inflammatory mediators and debris from damaged tissues.

People used to being well are very impatient with illness and injury. You want to be better immediately, or better yet, yesterday. You've got training to do, goals to meet. Give yourself and your body a break. If you get 1 percent better every day, you'll get there. If you try to make a 20 percent improvement overnight and suffer a 50 percent setback, you won't. Keep your focus on getting back a healthy body you can enjoy for the rest of your life. Who knows, this injury or illness might inspire you to make life changes which will ultimately leave you even healthier!

— Dr. Rebecca Gelber is an Incline Village resident and graduate of The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is an adjunct professor with the UNR School of Medicine and practices locally at Tahoe Aesthetic and Integrative Medicine, 775-298-1750, tahoemedicalspa.com.