Never take your health for granted

“Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.” – Bonnie Ware

Last Monday, I sprained my right hamstring. I heard a “pop” as I slid into my imperfect right splits. I was in a jazz dance class and the choreography called for this move. My heart stopped; I knew that the “pop” sound meant that I was in for a long and serious injury.

I was familiar with hamstring injuries. I sprained the left one twice in the last two years and until today, I still feel pain when I stretch it. When I got home, I iced my leg but it was too late. By the next morning, I had to hobble around.

I was utterly miserable. I knew that the initial pain would fade but that it might be a year before I regain my initial flexibility. What that meant was that I couldn’t dance at 100%; my goal for a full split was derailed… yet again; and that I woul be forced to miss classes while my leg was healing.

I realised then that I have been taking my health for granted. When I was healthy, I never gave much thought to the fact that I woke up each day with the ability to walk, run, jump and dance. I should also be grateful that my hamstring injury was less serious compared to what other people are enduring – be it broken bones or a life-threatening disease. I aim to take time every day to really consciously appreciate my blessings.

My second resolution from this event is to spend more time nourishing and restoring my body. When I first sprained my left hamstring (which left me unable to touch my toes), I pretty much left it up to time to heal myself. I saw a physiotherapist but I grew quite discouraged when she asked me why I was doing “such activities” i.e. practising my splits. I felt that she treated me like a person who didn’t exercise at all and that my problem was not so severe since the injury didn’t  hamper my everyday life. So I lost interest in rehab.

This time, I saw a new physio for my recent injury. She told me that I had to take care of both my new and old injury. These are the things I should be doing to get them back to 100%:

  1. Foam roll at home
  2. Sit on a spiky massage ball; I can even do this at work since I have a desk bound job
  3. Do eccentric training

The last point deserves more explanation. Eccentric training refers to contracting the muscle while lengthening. This brings greater strength to the muscle in the process of stretching it, which has been shown to speed up recovery and prevent reinjuries.

Four eccentrically biased exercises studied by Orishimo and McHugh.
Four eccentrically biased exercises studied by Orishimo and McHugh.

All the exercises above are not meant to be passive stretching. It’s not the same as sitting on the floor and trying to hold your toes. These stretches are dynamic. I was given two exercises by my physio:

  1. Lie on my back. Bend one knee to my chest. Loop a theraband around the foot. Lengthen the foot to the sky (around 90 degrees) while pulling on the theraband for resistance. The knees are straight. Bend the leg to the cheat. Repeat.
  2. Lie on my back. Straighten one leg to the sky (around 90 degrees). Loop the theraband around the foot. While keeping pressure on the foot, circle the leg as close to the face as possible, open up to the side so your hip is opened. Circle the leg back to the 90 degrees position. Repeat.

Apart from rehab exercises, it is also important to nourish my body correctly to encourage healing. I’ve started taking these supplements:

  1. Fish oil – I take Heart Health Essential Omega III Fish Oil with Vitamin E. It contains 3000 mg of fish oil per serving (two softgels), which is much  higher than most other brands. The Omega 3 fatty acids help to speed up recovery thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties.
  2. Curcumin – this is a chemical from turmeric, which is a plant from the ginger family. Endurance athletes like Scott Jurek use this to aid in recovery. I don’t find it to easy to get turmeric into my food so I take supplements in the form of Curcumin Extreme.
  3. Bromelain – this is a protein extract from pineapples that is used to reduce swelling and inflammation. I love pineapples so I have no issue with eating a lot of it. Yummy! But for those who prefer to get this in supplement form, you can get Isotonix Bromelain Plus.

With all these tools at my disposal, I am optimistic that I will be able to make a full recovery. While we all hate injuries, they are important because they make us more aware of ourselves, both physically and mentally.

What has worked for you in healing your body?