How to heal faster and stronger

If you have an injury (acute or chronic) this weeks blog is for you.

Ultimately, your body knows what to do to heal an injury.

The classic model of injury healing comprises  four sequential, yet overlapping phases:

(1) Hemostasis,

(2) Inflammation

(3) Proliferation  

(4) Remodeling.


Within the first few minutes after the injury, a process of platelet aggregation occurs, where blood cells (platelets) adhere to the site of injury. This is followed by activation of the clotting factors, which forms a clot of aggregated platelets in a mesh of cross-linked protein. The result is hemostasis (cessation of bleeding).

During the inflammation phase, bacteria and cellular debris are removed from the wound by white blood cells called phagocytes. In addition, growth factors (PDGF) are released into the wound that cause the migration and division of cells during the proliferative phase.

The proliferation phase is characterized by new blood cell formation (angiogenesis),  collagen  deposition, new tissue  formation and wound contraction.

Concurrently, re-epithelialization of the epidermis (new skin formation) occurs,  and cells called fibroblasts proliferate to aid in the formation of healthy collagen/connective tissue.

Lasty, during maturation and remodeling, collagen is remodeled and realigned along tension lines, and unnecessary cells are removed.


This process is fragile and susceptible to interruption or failure that can result in  inadequate healing, adhesions/scar tissue and weakened tissue that can be easily re-injured.

Some  factors that may contribute to poor healing include:

Diabetes,  stress, smoking, alcoholism, infection, aging, poor nutrition, repeated stress or injury,  NSAID’s and  RICE


An anti-inflammatory diet is essential for wound healing, This is a plant based diet consisting of colorful vegetables and fruits (especially berried), along with healthy fats (Olive oil, avocado, fish, flax, hemp and nuts), adequate protein (0.8-1.5 g/kg body weight) and healthy starches (e.g. Sweet potato, squash, quinoa and oats).

A diet comprised of refined carbohydrates and  unhealthy fats,  along with  inadequate water consumption, is a sure fire way to compromise your body’s ability to heal.


Ongoing stress or injury

Overuse and imbalances within the body can lead to a perpetual pain-injury cycle, where there is tissue damage, inflammation, adhesions, poor neuromuscular control, faulty and compensatory movements and more inflammation.

Many people think they can work through an injury or cover up the pain with NSAIDs, which leads me to NSAIDs.


NSAID’s  (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)

Since you now know that inflammation is one of the pillars of healing, it should be evident that there is a consequence for  blocking this process.

The most common side effects this class of medications  are:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Rash

NSAIDs also may cause swelling of the arms and legs due to the retention of fluid from their renal effects.

The most serious side effects are ulcers, bleeding, Kidney failure, and, rarely, liver failure.

NSAIDs may increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

What about wound healing?

To understand the effects of NSAIDs on wound healing, it  important to understand the role of satellite (stem) cells.

Satellite cells are muscle stem cells that reside adjacent to muscle fibers. These non-specialized cells remain dormant until they’re needed for muscle repair and regeneration, as is the case following an injury.

One of the most important roles of satellite cells is their ability to increase the number of nuclei in muscles, which are responsible for producing the proteins needed for muscle repair (or growth if you are lifting weights).

NSAIDs exert their effects by blocking the synthesis of various prostanoids,  which are  known to stimulate satellite cell proliferation, differentiation, and fusion

Studies in both animals and humans have repeatedly found significant decreases in satellite cell activity when NSAIDs were administered in response to muscle damage.

NSAIDs disrupt the  healing process.


In prior blogs I have mentioned taking a MEAT (Mobilize, Exercise, Analgesics and Treatment) vs RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) approach. Here is the link to that blog if you missed it.

RICE vs MEAT: Which is better for an acute injury?

In short, rest, ice and immobilization delay or mitigate  the inflammatory process, whereas mobilization, movement and treatments that augment the inflammatory process, promote healing.

Here is a list of my recommended approach to healing faster and stronger:

1. MEAT (Mobilization with compression, self-myofascial release, topical biofreeze, acupuncture, IASTM- Instrument Assisted Soft tissue Mobilization and massage)

2.  Contrast hydrotherapy

3. Curcumin

4. Bromelain

5. Vitamin C

6. Following and anti-inflammatory diet



About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin