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What affects healing?

Hurry up!

Ridiculous claims float around about special techniques or nutrients that supposedly “improve healing”. This annoys me. Most of the time, these are unsubstantiated claims; no research supports them. Lots of sites exist that debunk tons of these claims, and I feel it would be a waste of time to write about it myself.

Instead, in this post, I’ll outline one of the most important reasons you should almost never believe this claim.

Technically, you cannot speed up your body’s natural healing process.

The most you can do is ensure the optimal environment exists for healing to occur.

Now, this might sound disappointing at first. But I assure you, this is liberating information. It liberates you from wasting your time and money buying ridiculous products and services that claim to “improve healing”, liberation from the guilt you may have from “not doing everything you can” to get better. Save time, money, and stress. That shouldn’t be disappointing at all.

This should also be relieving. Barring any of the problems (to be discussed below), when you hurt yourself, you have little to worry about other than protecting the injury. This is why so often you may go to the doctor for something and leave disappointed that they didn’t seem to do anything for you. The truth is, there probably wasn’t anything important to do. You’re healthy, and you’ll heal.

“The Simpsons: Marge in Chains (#4.21)” (1993)

Crowd: We need a cure! We need a cure!
Dr. Hibbert: Why, the only cure is bed rest. Anything I give you would only be a placebo.
Blonde Woman: Where do we get these placebos?
Man: Maybe there’s some in this truck!
[the panicky crowd push over a truck, boxes labeled “danger killer bees” break open, the bees go everywhere and everyone panics, one man puts a bee in his mouth]
Man: I’m cured! I mean, ouch!

If, after your healing time is up, you lost some strength, range of motion, skills, or conditioning, that doesn’t mean you didn’t heal well either. Neither does a mild scar. These issues are usually due to disuse, immobilization (like in a cast), or other complications.

This is where rehabilitation comes in. It’s not because you didn’t eat enough vitamin C.

So, what does slow healing?


(As adapted from one of my old physio textbooks)

Most research cited here is on wound healing (on the surface of the body, as opposed to deeper injuries), as it is the most extensively studied (for surgery recovery, and because it is obviously the easiest to study). This may not be an exhaustive list, but it is pretty inclusive of most real factors).

Wong. 1996. Integrated processes responsible for soft tissue healing.
Kloth. 2002. Wound Healing: Alternatives in Management.

BUT WHAT ABOUT… some confusion about what healing means:

Of course, some people simply have the idea of “improved healing” mistaken.

If this claim is made about something, it doesn’t mean it’s not useful. For example, it probably wouldn’t even take me a minute to find a link showing someone claiming yoga “improves healing”. The thing is, yoga does have a lot of great benefits, and may even aid healing by dealing with one of the issues listed above (Stress/Pain). But if you don’t have this issue, yoga isn’t going to speed up healing, and certainly isn’t necessary.

However, if doing yoga makes you feel better, and helps you stay active while you are healing, then go for it! When I say healing, I mean in the strictest sense – biological repair of the injured tissue. I’m not talking about mental/emotional, social/cultural, spiritual, or any other type of healing. Plus, rehab after the healing may be even more important to you if there was something specific you wanted to do that you now have trouble with.

These things may be a big part of your recovery, and I don’t mean to downplay them. It’s all important. What I am trying to do, is inform you to be a wise consumer, and stop stressing!

Healing rays exist in Starcraft 2, but not in real life... yet.

Trust me, if some scientist ever discovers a way to literally speed up your body’s healing processes, you’ll hear about it. That would be big news, and we would officially be living in the future.



– You can’t “speed up” healing beyond what your body is already capable of.

– There are things that can slow healing down, but these things are usually pretty obvious. They often require medical intervention, not super-nutrients. Stop wasting your money!

What can you do?

– The best thing you can do at first is provide an optimal healing environment by protecting and resting the injury.

– Eliminate perpetuating factors that keep you from healing. (still running on that twisted ankle?) Be realistic!

– Eat reasonably nutritious food, and get moving as soon as you (safely) can to avoid deconditioning.

– Learn about your body, so you can maximize function, and minimize damage!

Hope this article was helpful and informative!


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    5 Responses to What affects healing?

    1. Tony Ingram says:

      I’d also like to add that sometimes you may try something that may relieve pain or help you move, like a massage, which will give you the perception of healing faster. However, there are good reasons why it helps (which I plan to write about soon) and not because you literally heal faster.
      So before you say, “hey man! I did blah for my injured blah and it healed faster!”, think about what I just wrote, and ask yourself “did it?”.

      This is important because you may do something and feel better, but not really be healed yet, then go injure yourself further. Just a word of caution!


    2. Justin Power says:

      Love the Starcraft 2 reference!

    3. William Ng says:

      Really informative, thanks!

    4. peejay says:

      Keeping the wound moisturised, covered, and warm will prevent the formation of a scab and speed up the regeneration process. But keep checking the wound regularly for signs of infection.

    5. Jeremy says:

      So I cut my finger on a tree to where I could see the tissue that was above the bone and doctor said it would take three weeks to heal but it healed completely in one and half weeks.so then I went to the doctors office to show him that it healed and he was amazed at how fast it healed. So how does that happen in the healing process?

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