Injuries suck. Recently I was practising some combat applications of tai chi (yes it is a martial art), specifically how to take someone off balance and throw them to the ground. We've trained these techniques many times before, but this day was going to be one to remember. As I was taken down, my left knee twisted badly and I heard a horrible popping sound. We all stopped in silence. There was no immediate pain, but I knew I'd badly injured myself. My chiropractor friend was there, and carefully carried out some range of motion tests – some weakness, stiffness and mild pain, but nothing terrible. When I got up to try and walk, it was a different story. The knee felt weak and more pain had started to appear. We had some dinner together, but at the end of the meal I could hardly walk. I hobbled home and hoped it would be a lot better in the morning.
The next day was worse. It was agony to have the slightest twisting movement through the knee and I had to get crutches to get around. The doctor said to get an MRI and see a knee specialist. I was devastated. Utterly inconsolable. All the physical practises that I love were taken away from me, and I'd have to take time off work. The MRI showed a lot of ligament damage, but nothing looked like it was completely snapped, and thankfully I didn't need surgery. I had a grade three tear of the patellofemoral tendon (which attaches the patella to the femur), and a grade one tear of both the MCL and ACL. Could've been worse, but it wasn't good.
The recovery timeframe I was given was 6-8 weeks until I could resume my activities. Even then, I'd need a couple more months of physio and proprioceptive work to be back to where I was. I didn't have that long to wait, and was determined to heal as fast as possible. This wasn't my first soft tissue injury, and although it was by far the worst, I'd learnt a lot researching and practising how to heal. I figured I'd be training again in a couple of weeks.
I was doing bodyweight exercises after half a week, and light weights after a week. After 2 weeks I was doing yoga and light martial arts training. In just under 3 weeks I could walk without limping, and even run, albeit with a little dull pain. After 3 weeks I was back to my normal weight lifting and martial arts training (though still being careful of my knee with the latter).
I was amazed, and so was everyone I spoke to and saw. My chiropractic friend said he'd never seen anything like it. Another friend said it was proof that my techniques work. Another chuckled knowingly, saying she knew I wouldn't let it keep me down for long.
So how did I do it? How did I heal so quickly?
Conventional wisdom says to use ice and take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). This will indeed stop the inflammation, and can be useful if an injury swells up to the size of a beach ball, but inflammation is the body's natural response to trauma. It's what it does when trying to protect and heal an injury, so don't shut it down. In Chinese medicine, which has been around a lot longer than western medicine, they understand this, but they do say to manage excessive inflammation (i.e. if it swells up like a beach ball!). If this is the case, put some ice on it but no more than 10 minutes every hour. Do not take NSAIDs unless you're in serious pain as these shut down the body's own healing. We'll cover off more on managing inflammation in nutrition and fasting below.
This is by far the hardest part, but it sets the tone for every step of your recovery. It took me a couple of days to move from victim, to acceptance, to determined. Don't get me wrong, that determination only came in brief spells at first, but after a few days it was like iron.
Remember the mind and body can do incredible things, things doctors thought not possible. People who have severed their spinal cord, that couldn't even feel their legs, have walked again. We all have that power to heal inside us. Sure it may take some time, some help (even some surgery), and a lot of pain and determination, but we can heal. And the same goes for healing emotional trauma. If you stay in victim mode, well….that's exactly where you'll stay.
Start to massage the area straight away to stop the blood clotting and bring fresh blood into the damaged tissue. This can be excruciating. When I first tried it, it hurt so much it brought tears to my eyes. Breathing through the pain helped, but I could only massage the area for short periods of time before collapsing on the bed, breath ragged and tears streaming down my face. I kept doing this multiple times each day, using a herbal liniment such as those available through a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner or Asian store - ask for dit da jow (in Cantonese) or diedajiu (in Mandarin). The herbs used in such liniments promote blood flow and are anti-inflammatory, but they work with the body to speed up healing, rather than block it like ice and NSAIDs.
If there is obviously a broken bone or it's doing more harm than good, don't massage it – go straight to hospital. As much as massaging the area hurt, I knew it was a “good pain” and was helping.
Let's get even further away from the “conventional wisdom” shall we? When I first got injured, I didn't feel like eating. I thought it was just depression, so I ate anyway. But think about it – if an animal injures itself or is sick, does it eat any food you give it? Nope, it naturally doesn't feel like eating. Fasting has amazing self-healing effects and reduces inflammation (again, by triggering the body to heal itself). Also when we eat, the body has to divert energy to digest that food. Remember we can go weeks, if not months, without food. I'd recommend trying to fast for at least 24 hours, if not 48 – 72. After a few days (even though I was eating some food), I was ravenous! Now the body was ready to rebuild the soft tissue and it was telling me it needed resources. Even though I hugely increased my food intake, I still fasted for about 20 hours each day to get some of the benefits from fasting, while still giving the body adequate resources.
Remember fasting isn't an on or off switch, so consuming a few vitamins won't break the fast.
When I did eat, I made make sure to give my body everything it needed to heal – adequate protein, plenty of healthy fats, and nutrient dense foods.
The body requires anti-inflammatory compounds at this time – the best common sources are magnesium (cacao is great), turmeric (add black pepper to this for increased absorption), ginger, cayenne and garlic. Other great sources are pretty much any spice (cinnamon or cloves for example), or herb.
The body also requires plenty of vitamins, anti-oxidants and flavonoids – eat lots of colourful vegetables and cacao, drink teas, and I'd say supplement with at least a greens supplement. Other vitamins that can be supplemented to speed wound healing are zinc, vitamin c, omega 3 fats (such as fish oil), and drink bone broth (real stock) and/or supplement with gelatine/collagen. Other supplements that may be of some benefit are glucosamine, chondroitin, bromelain, arginine and HMB. I went all out and used them all.
My natural instinct was to eat very low carb during this time – which also has anti-inflammatory effects. Admittedly, I feel to eat low carb more often than not, but I just didn't have any drive for carbohydrates. I did eat some blueberries and a little honey (honey is also anti-inflammatory and has some healing properties), but otherwise no fruit or sweets – excessive sugars/carbohydrates cause inflammation, so again the body knew what it needed.
The conventional wisdom is to stay off it as much as possible. Wrong. As soon as possible, start using it again! I needed to tell my body I still need the use of that joint, and to hurry up and heal. It also makes sure the muscles don't atrophy from lack of use, and the joints don't stiffen up. I knew the more I stayed off it, the more I would train my body to protect that area – I'd maintain that protective movement (in my case a limp), and be cautions of using the injured area much longer.
The day after it happened, I started taking the knee through its range of motion, which wasn't great. It hurt. I flexed and extended the knee as best I could, using my leg muscles and my hands or a yoga strap. I stopped short of any sharp pain, but pushed through the dull pain (and frustration). The more I moved it, the less it hurt. Up until a point anyway. Once it had really had enough and was starting to hurt a lot again, I stopped. Then I'd massage it again and dose on anti-inflammatory foods and supplements.
While always slowly and carefully ensuring I didn't take it through any twisting motion (i.e. with correct alignment and movement of the knee over the foot), I managed to start back doing some very slow and careful yoga after two days – mostly chair pose, forward bends and lunges. I worked on getting my balance back- my confidence in balancing weight on my left leg was shot and I had to rebuild it, along with the strength of the vastus medialis (tear shaped muscle of the thigh near the inside of the knee). The next two days were bodyweight squats and lunges. Another day and some tai chi exercises were possible. I was squatting light weights in a week - again, very slowly and carefully - then deadlifting. By two weeks I was back lifting moderately heavy again and back to light martial arts training. Two and a half weeks from the injury and I had full range of motion back. Just shy of three weeks and I could walk normally and even run again (with a little dull ache in the knee). By three weeks I was back to regular training, though being careful with the knee.
Also, I trained around my injury as best I could. I was doing upper body bodyweight exercises even when I could hardly limp to keep my upper body strong, and to keep my anabolic (tissue building and repairing) hormone levels (such as human growth hormone) high throughout the body. It also helped me a lot with mood.
Fortunately I have experience as a personal trainer and have been physically active for many years. I also had the help of a chiropractor, so I knew what I was doing. If you don't know what you're doing, or are even the slightest bit unsure, consult a physio or chiro, and a good PT.
I started doing energy healing on my knee at dinner after it happened. I continued to do short sessions a few times every day. Energy healing isn't going to suddenly make you get up and walk, but it does help the body heal. Each time I did a healing, the inflammation and pain went down, meaning I could do more massage, mobility and strengthening work. Energy work also helps deal with the emotions and stress injuries bring up, as does meditation.
If energy healing were thought of as broad brush strokes, acupuncture would be the fine details. Acupuncture has even been recommended from many of the mainstream medical community to aid in healing soft tissue injuries. Acupuncture works by treating the body as a complex, inter-related energetic system, similar to energetic healing, but using a different “map” of the body.
We manifest our own reality - that includes the good and the bad. An injury or disease is our higher selves communicating to us on a metaphysical level, via the physical body. When we fail to address some emotional, and thus energetic, issue that's been present for some time, it will eventually manifest into dis-ease or injury. Each body part has its own metaphysical meanings, and the left and right side of the body represent the feminine and the masculine energy of that aspect. So what did mine mean?
The knees relate to pride – to bend a knee to something greater than ourselves. Or in my case, refusing to kneel to the feminie due to a deep mistrust I hadn't healed. My mother left my father when I was very young, but as a child, I thought this was because of me and if affected me far more deeply than I realised. I'd had issues with this knee as a young teenager, and had pain it in from time to time. And I'd had a very similar, though much less serious, injury in that knee before. But I still wasn't listening – in fact, I wasn't even open to the possibility of a metaphysical cause of illness back then.
Once I figured out the meaning behind my injury, I reflected on the evidence. I'd had trouble trusting my emotions, intuition and psychic gifts (all feminine energies). I would always want to do, plan, and know (masculine energies) instead of just being - trusting things would just work out and to receive. In relationships I never truly opened to the feminie – fearing judgement and rejection. And so I could now move to heal the underlying emotional issues, which helped speed the physical healing. The emotional issues are still a work in progress, but it means my higher self no longer has to communicate to me through my body due to my thick skull!
Now it's not just me that's come across this. A friend of mine was in a car accident and he also had an amazing tale of rapid recovery after realising the metaphysical meaning and lessons it brought. Similarly, many other people could give testimonials to how they have helped heal disease by understanding the metaphysical meaning behind it. Tune in and be open to receiving the knowledge from your higher self as to why you've gone and manifested something so painful. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise…
While it's been a painful experience, I'm grateful for the many lessons I've learnt from this injury, and hope this article helps others deal with their injuries - to be aware of the amazing healing abilities we all have.
This is what helped me heal, but listen to your own body, and seek help from any medical professionals and healing modalities you are drawn to. And of course research anything I've said for yourself. We all have different biology and different paths to walk.
Most importantly, be mindful that we manifest our own reality. If some emotional trauma or issue is not made conscious and addressed, in will eventually manifest as disease or injury. This is our higher selves communicating to us via the metaphysical language of the body, and it will get louder and louder until we listen.