Injuries That Won’t Heal

February 09, 2018

Injuries that Won’t Heal – Where is your breaking point?

I can speak all to clearly to this one.   There is a fine line between pushing the limits and taking yourself out of the game completely.  For myself, the breaking point was a stress fracture.  I knew something was up, but I thought I could do one last 10km race.  It took me out of running for 10 months.  10 long months!  It was painful.  Literally, the injury was painful, but what really hurt was being removed from my community.  Runners become friends that run.  When you can’t run, you don’t have that social support anymore.  Month after month of denial went by until I finally said enough is enough.

Why is my injury not healing and what can I do to encourage recovery?

Each injury is unique.  Delve a little deeper to see if there is more than just a localized problem.

If your injury won’t heal, perhaps you are not getting the message?

Sometimes injuries happen for a reason.  It is your body’s way of saying NO.  Athletes are notorious for ignoring these messages.  Just one more race.  Just one more weight set.  You perform well because you have this drive.  However, running on overdrive for too long has repercussions.  Something must give and if you are too busy to notice and take action, your body will literally pull you to a halt.

Action Plan:

  • Look at your schedule. Both your training schedule, work and personal calendars. Extra stress encourages cortisol release. Long term, this plays a toll on your body.  Find areas to create down time and time to focus on your recovery. Rest is very productive for the body.
  • Your level of fitness and type of activity will determine an appropriate rest period supported by research. Your healthcare provider can guide you though creating a recovery plan.
Your pointing in the wrong direction?

The onset of your injury may be stemming from another area of your body.  For example, runners quite often have back pain that is stemming from having tight calves.  Therefore, treating the back will not provide consistent relief until the calves are dealt with.

Think of your body as a marionette. An intertwined connection of strings – ligaments, fascia, bones and muscles.  If one area is suffering, the resistance pulls up the chain to the weakest link.

Another area of concern for injuries that are not healing is referred pain.  For example, a right shoulder that is not responding to an exercise recovery plan may be because you are experiencing referred pain from the gallbladder.

Action Plan:  Sometimes it can be hard to know what is causing what.  You are not alone. Ask your Naturopathic Doctor for help finding what is driving your injury.

Keep the flow going.

The John Hopkins Medical School states that blood flow is “perhaps the most vital component of the healing process”.   If you have poor circulation, the rate at which nutrients are transported to the site will be slower, lengthening your healing time.  In my case, poor running posture created restrictions within the fascia.  These restrictions were not allowing the fibula to act as a pump, thereby limiting its motion and blood flow to the foot.

Action Plan:

  • Alternating hot and cold packs to the affected area can stimulate blood flow.
  • Find another way to move. Swimming tends to be a non-invasive activity to keep your heart rate up while avoiding re-injury.
Stay hydrated.

You want your cells to be plump like fresh grapes, not a shrivelled-up raisin for optimal cellular permeability.

Action Plan: Drinking your body weight in kg’s in ounces can help transport nutrients and waste products.  For example, if you are 66 kgs, you will require 66 ounces of water. There are approximately 33 ounces in a litre, so this person would require 2L and no, coffee and tea do not count but coconut water sure does!

You are still doing the same thing. 

Whatever got you in this mess, stop it!  This is common where poor posture comes into play.  Sitting or sleeping in the same position for hours a day can create a system of muscle dysfunction.   Runners joke that they run races in between injuries.  Don’t do as I did and just “hope” that your injury is going to get better.  You must be an active member in your healing process.  Sitting back or simply going through the motions is not progress. Put intent into your rehab.  What you think matters.

Action Plan: Set your Fit Bit to buzz every hour as a reminder to get up and move, but to give yourself a quick posture check.  Have your training program or running gait assessed to see where you can alleviate the strain.

Finish what you started.

I see this all the time.  Athletes will begin a treatment plan, start to feel good and hop back on the track.  Once you begin your treatment plan, finish it.  Getting excited and returning to sport too early will land you back to injury down the road.  It took you time to get into this mess, give yourself time to get out.

Action Plan: Pre-book a series of appointments. Once they are in your calendar you are more likely to go!  Treatments such as acupuncture work in succession of itself. For some injuries, like a pulled hamstring, studies show treatments twice per week for three weeks have the best results.  Once I took my injury seriously and booked regular acupuncture appointments my symptoms began to fade.

Your all fired up.

Inflammation. Inflammation. Inflammation.  I have said it before and I will say it again. Many of us are suffering from a chronic low-lying level of inflammation that flies under the radar.  We need to look at the health of your microbiome (the beneficial bacteria in your gut), watch for offending foods in your diet and get in as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible.

Action Plan:

  • Clean up your diet by removing offending foods. If your tunny hurts, you feel tired or you can’t think, these are signs that whatever you just ate may be making you feel worse. You can begin an elimination diet or run a Food Sensitivity Test to help determine the culprit.
  • Use these foods or supplements as nutrient accelerators:
    • Include anti-oxidant rich foods such as ½ cup blueberries
    • Use pumpkinseed butter for additional Zinc
    • Vitamin C and bioflavonoid combos like grapefruits and cranberries
    • Sip on Bone broth, morning and night for additional collagen
    • Add 1 tbsp of anti-inflammatory turmeric (with black pepper) to your soups and smoothies.
    • Protein such as wild fish, provides building blocks for injuries to lean on for support.
Not sure where to start?

Like most things in life, there is more than one side to the story.  Injuries recruit surrounding tissues into their drama.  Keep your treatment plan multi faceted and speak to your Naturopathic Doctor about what supplements or treatment plan might be right for you.


The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.


Dr. Jennifer Tanner, has a broad, evidence based practice with a focus on sports and performance based medicine. Being a marathon runner and having been a competitive equestrian, an active lifestyle is important. Dr. Tanner uses a variety of tools including Acupuncture and Clinical Nutrition, putting an emphasis on “food as medicine” and addressing the root causes of inflammation . In conjunction with the Integrative Health team, Dr. Tanner is thrilled to help people achieve an optimal state of health and pursue their performance based health goals!

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