In our mountain town, December is usually the month where it’s getting pretty cold but there’s not quite enough snow to head to the mountain to ski or snowboard. What can our active Flagstaffians do? Well, heading to a warmer climate to run, ride or climb is an option. But another great option is to take a little downtime to recover from that nagging injury that has been plaguing you all summer long!
The end of the year also is commonly when people have met their insurance deductible and schedule surgery if they need to do so. Since recovering from an injury and recovering from surgery have a lot of similarities, I thought I’d roll both of them into this article.
Let’s take a look at some of my favorite modalities to enhance your body’s natural healing process after injury or surgery.
Fortunately, there are many nutrients that can help recovery from an injury or surgery. Because it can be difficult to get enough nutrients through their diet to heal, patients will take oral supplements or come into my office for IV nutrients to promote their natural healing process. I will choose IV nutrients if someone needs a bigger dose of nutrients than their digestive tract can handle. Vitamin C is a good example of this because it can cause diarrhea at high oral doses. IV nutrients also come in handy when a patient has nausea or other digestive issues that can be problematic with post-surgery pain medications. Here are some of the nutrients I have found to be most useful for healing tissue:
Vitamin K (Caution, this vitamin may interact with certain types of medications!)
Acupuncture is a wonderful, relaxing and restorative addition to a program to heal an injury or recover from surgery. I prefer to incorporate cupping into my acupuncture treatments, particularly for injury recovery. Both acupuncture and cupping can relieve pain and increase blood flow to the area that needs healing, which is a winning combination. If you’ve had acupuncture, you also know that there can be a deep sense of relaxation and well-being that comes along with a treatment. Who couldn’t use more of that?
Prolotherapy or PRP
Hands down, prolotherapy and platelet rich plasma (PRP) are some of my favorite tools to assist the body with healing an injured area. By injecting a solution into the area that has a regenerative and healing effect on a tendon or ligament or cartilage, we can spark a healing response that allows an injured area to heal more completely than it is able to on its own.
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) uses the patient’s own platelets to spark a strong healing response, while classic prolotherapy utilizes dextrose (sugar water) to draw the immune system to the area to promote healing.
When I use herbs to help a patient heal from an injury or surgery, my intention is usually twofold. Of course, I want the herbs to strengthen and heal the tissue in the injured area, but I also want to help relieve the patient’s pain. Corydalis, Jamaican dogwood, ginger, turmeric and skullcap are just a few of my favorites. Keep in mind, though, that many herbs interact with medications so asking your provider about medication interactions is important.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Getting into the hyperbaric chamber for a hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) treatment is a great way to ensure that an area of injury or surgery is getting plenty of oxygen. Oxygen is an element that is necessary for healing and, since we live at 7,000 feet, it can be a struggle to get proper oxygen delivery to an area that needs to heal. HBOT is a great adjunct to a complete injury or postsurgical healing plan, but it’s rarely used as a stand-alone treatment.
Use Caution with Steroid Injections
Recently, steroid injections have been making headlines and not for good reasons. Steroid injections are commonly used for osteoarthritis and other types of musculoskeletal pain like tendinitis. However, the most recent findings regarding steroid shots is that steroid injections actually speed up the process of degeneration! If a steroid injection is being offered as one of your only courses of treatment, use caution and consider having a conversation with your provider about options that won’t break down your cartilage, ligaments or tendons.
After reading this, I hope that you take some time this winter for your body to heal. You’ll thank yourself next spring. Happy healing! FBN
By Amber Belt, N.D.
Amber Belt, N.D. is a naturopathic physician with sharp regenerative injection skills, roller derby enthusiast, business owner, animal lover and Flagstaff devotee. She’s been performing regenerative injections for 12 years and can be contacted through aspenmedcenter.com or at 928-213-5828.