By Alex Eriksson, Founder of Anabolic Health
You need progressive overloading to really grow muscle and boost your strength. However, these same overloads can cause injury if your body undergoes too much stress. When this happens, you have to know how to naturally ease pain and support recovery.
What Happens When You Get Injured?
Before we talk about the many things you can do to fight off pain and hasten healing, let’s look at the phases that the body goes through whenever it gets injured.
This phase starts immediately after you incur an injury and lasts anywhere from a few hours to almost a week. It’s characterised by pain, swelling, intense tenderness and limited motion around the injured tissue.
These symptoms are caused by the increased blood flow and the presence of inflammation, which actually help in getting rid of damaged tissues. The body also remodels its blood vessels to improve blood flow and goes around any damaged blood vessels towards the injury.
The body begins to rebuild the damaged tissues. There is reduced swelling, tenderness, pain and movement resistance in and around the injury.
In this phase, the body prioritises rebuilding the structure of the tissues. The tissues still don’t have the lasting strength necessary to provide normal function. Connection between tissues and fibres are weak, making the recurrence of injury quite likely.
This phase can last around two days but may take up to eight weeks.
Remodelling and Maturation Phase
At this point, the tissues are starting to regain their proper structure. They gradually get back their function as the bonds between them become stronger.
Gradual tension by contraction and stretching is recommended during this phase. This helps orient the tissues, allowing them to align towards the lines of stress they normally accommodate.
Despite being the final phase of injury progression and recovery, remodelling and maturation takes the longest time — anywhere from a few months to a few years.
Coping with Pain and Supporting Recovery, Naturally
Now that you’ve gained a basic understanding of injury progression, it’s time to discuss the things you can do to beat pain and facilitate proper healing.
Increasing your IGF-1 production
IGF-1, or Insulin-like Growth Factor 1, is a hormone essential to the regeneration of the cells in your muscles, bones, and ligaments. The body also uses it to fight or control inflammation as evidenced by a high incidence of chronic inflammation among those with low IGF-1 levels.
You can boost your IGF-1 levels by increasing your intake of whey protein, red meat, zinc or capsaicin (chili peppers). Soy isoflavones can also benefit your IGF-1 levels but it can also increase your estrogen levels, which could then lead to hormonal imbalance in some men so be careful.
Akuamma seeds come from parts of Africa such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon. They are used for their analgesic properties and contains an alkaloid called akuammine, which act on the kappa and delta opioid receptors in the body. Conventional painkillers act on the mu opiod receptors and it is only these receptors that are involved in abuse, which means that Akuamma seeds have a very low abuse potential since they only acts on kappa and delta.
Taking Cissus Quadrangularis
Cissus quadrangularis is a vine that grows in Africa and different parts of Asia. It’s used as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant in traditional African and Ayurvedic medicine.
It can assist in the recovery of bone fractures due to its ability to raise the levels of osteopontin protein in the body. This protein aids in regaining functionality in previously broken bones, particularly during the remodelling phase of injury.
Other than that, cissus quadrangularis contains vitamins and steroids saponins that induce faster regeneration and mineralisation of damaged bone tissues. Use of the vine may decrease the time needed to achieve complete bone restoration by around 30%.
The plant’s analgesic properties also help reduce pain from bone-related injuries and chronic joint inflammation. Its pain-relieving effect can last for around two to four hours. Effects-wise, it’s quite similar to acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin).
Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, cissus quadrangularis is ideally taken during the proliferative phase of injury. The inflammation in the first phase of an injury is a natural part of recovery. Reducing it hinders the healing process and produces weaker tissues during the remodelling phase.
Kratom is a plant native to various parts of Southeast Asia. It contains alkaloids that interact with the body’s opioid system, resulting in pain relief. This is actually similar to the effect created by narcotic pain medications like codeine, morphine, and naloxone, but a lot milder.
The dominant alkaloids in kratom are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. These trigger the mu opioid receptors found in the spinal cord and in the brain. Stimulation of these receptors release endorphins, decrease painful sensations and enhances mood.
Unlike narcotic medications, kratom has a milder yet often longer-lasting effect. This makes it a good alternative to such medications, especially when it comes to the possibility of getting addicted.
In fact, kratom can be used in managing opioid tolerance and dependence caused by the said medications. For more information about Kratom check out this website.
Applying heat on the injured part for short periods can speed up recovery. The increased rate of recovery is due to heat’s ability to trigger the production of heat shock proteins (HSPs).
HSPs act as chaperones for other proteins in moving between different cells. This ensures that the damaged and injured tissues develop into an anatomically and functionally correct structure.
HSPs also support the synthesis of muscle protein after extended periods of inactivity. This is helpful following recovery from injuries that require limb immobilization such as broken bones and dislocated joints.
Because of these two benefits, heat therapy is extremely beneficial during the proliferative, and remodelling and maturation phase of your recovery. Heat shock proteins can help you get back the mobility and functionality that your injured tissues had before the injury.
Keep in mind that in heat therapy, the maximum temperature you can safely use is around 42 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit). Once temperatures reach 45 degrees C (113 degrees F), heat starts to cause pain and tissue damage.
For soft tissue injuries, a therapeutic ultrasound is your only option for heat therapy. The machine uses ultrasonic waves to increase the temperature of tissues in these hard-to-reach areas.
The duration of your heat therapy would depend on the severity and type of your injury. Minor injuries would only require around 15 to 20 minutes. Major injuries would need around 30 minutes to 2 hours. It would be best to consult your doctor to know the best amount of time for your particular injury.
Your injury can only receive heat therapy when it finishes its inflammatory phase. Applying heat on inflamed tissue can make the inflammation worse. If there’s any swelling, tissue damage or redness, never apply heat therapy.
Using topical analgesics
Topical analgesics offer a convenient way to relieve pain. This is an option if you prefer to avoid medications that can cause dependencies, especially when there’s only a moderate amount of pain to begin with.
Although there are dozens of different natural topical analgesics (with some preparations containing a combination of compounds), you’ll probably have to stick to the most reliable ones:
This activates the kappa opioid receptors, causing adequate pain relief from sprains and muscle cramps. It creates a cold sensation on the area of application.
Camphor interacts with the nerve endings and causes mild pain relief. Forceful application of camphor causes a warm sensation, while gentle application brings a cool sensation.
This compound is found in chili pepper. It’s quite effective at limiting the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Do note though, that it creates a hot sensation wherever it is applied.
Help Yourself Recover from Injury
There are many ways to hasten recovery and relieve pain from injury. However, there’s no substitute to proper physical therapy, especially when it comes ensuring that you regain normal function and mobility.