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7 ways to decrease injury occurrence and recovery time.

1. Discover the reason behind your pain So your knee hurts when you run, but why? Recognising what's causing your pain is the first step to avoiding it and treating it. With any serious or long lasting pain you should always see your doctor, but for minor aches and pains that only flare up on occasion you might be able to find more information on the cause by reading our injury guide

2. Don't push yourself With minor injuries it can be tempting to continue on with exercise and sport but this can often exacerbate the pain and eventually cause long term damage. Remember that it is okay to break your routine and take a few days off, you can rest with an ice pack or heat pack on most injuries to decrease your recovery time.

3. Ease back into exercise Yeah you used to bicep curl 30KG before you injured your elbow and now you feel fine, but you can't go back to your workout from where you left off. Ease yourself back into exercise, playing sport or exercising again too early or too hard could make your injury rear its ugly head once more, and then you've wasted your recovery time because you'll have to start the process all over again.

4. Change your routine There are a million different ways to get exercise, but often we get stuck in a pattern which can cause injury through nothing more than over use. Try switching up your exercises, for example - Sore shins causing you trouble? Get off the treadmill and use the cross trainer, it'll remove the impact from running which could be causing your pain. Aching knees? Go for a swim instead of a run, your body will be supported by the water and less weight will be going through the knee. Bad back? Drop the dumbbells and hit a weight machine, they often only target specific areas of the body and you should be able to avoid over using your back as much. Even if your goal is just to lose weight, change it up. You don't always have to run or walk, lifting weights is an excellent way to burn off calories, variety is the spice of life.

5. Manage your weight There are hundreds of reasons to get down (or up) to a healthy weight, but did you know it maybe contributing negatively to your injury and recovery? Findings in the USA from 1999 - 2002 show a clear association between having a  high BMI and the increased  probability of sustaining an injury [1] , and another study from Canada in 2002 on the health behaviour in school-aged children [2] revealed that youth who were obese had increased recovery times from injury than those who were in a healthy weight range. You may exercise often but without healthy food and portion control you will find it a lot harder to reach your weight goal, which leads us onto ...

6. Spruce up your diet A healthy diet can be beneficial in reducing injury recovery time, studies have found that monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fats inhibit inflammation, leading to better collagen production (collagen fibres give ligaments their strength), while saturated fats and omega 6 fats promote inflammation, which could slow your recovery. So what does this mean for your diet? Well you'll want to increase your intake of omega 3 and monounsaturated fats by eating more fish, nuts and seeds, and decrease your consumption of omega 6 fats to hit the recommended intake ratio of  2:1 to 4:1 (Omega 6: omega 3). Your recovery will also require protein to form new tissue, and a good intake of vitamins from fresh vegetables and fruit, this will up your natural defences as well as aiding the healing process.

7. Sleep Sleep is the prime time for your body to release growth hormones and undergo protein synthesis  - an important part of maintaining and growing new muscle. If you're not sleeping 7-9 hours a night this could be contributing to your slow recovery from injury. Don't forget, sleep could also be your enemy in recovery, or more the way you sleep. If you sleep with your arm under your pillow or head you could be wearing out the cartilage in your shoulder, or with too many pillows you may strain your spine and neck muscles. Unfortunately  there isn't a perfect position to sleep in, but here are a few tips for a healthier sleep - Try and sleep on your back, this makes it easier for your spine, neck and head to maintain a neutral position. Replace your mattress after 5-7 years of regular use, if you find yourself rolling a lot in the night trying to get comfortable, it's time to go shopping. Avoid caffeine and sugar in the evening, but don't go to bed on a completely empty stomach.  Eat around 3 hours before bed time for a good balance, you don't want to be full when you head to bed either. No alcohol, it will diminish the quality of your sleep as your body processes the alcohol and sugars. Sorry! References - [1] [2] [3] Nutrition. 2004 Feb;20(2):243. Dietary long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory action: potential application in the field of physical exercise. Machado Andrade Pde M, Tavares do Carmo Md.