Active Recovery: The Best Way to Aid Your Body in Healing

Active Recovery: The Best Way to Aid Your Body in Healing


When you get injured, it's important to give your body the time it needs to rest and heal. But that doesn't mean you have to sit on the sidelines for weeks or even months at a time. Active recovery is a type of rehabilitation that helps you speed up the healing process while still allowing your body the time it needs to recover.

Here's everything you need to know about active recovery and how it can help you get back to your pre-injury self in no time.

What is Active Recovery?

Active recovery is a combination of activities designed to promote healing and restore function after an injury. These activities include stretching, strengthening exercises, wearing a brace, proper nutrition, and other holistic recovery steps. The goal of active recovery is to help blood flow to the injured area so that nutrients and oxygen can reach the area and speed up the healing process. This approach contrasts with complete rest, where the injured area is immobilized for extended periods, potentially leading to stiffness and a longer recovery period.

Benefits of Active Recovery

There are many benefits to incorporating active recovery into your rehabilitation plan. Active recovery can:

  1. Reduce swelling and inflammation: Engaging in low-intensity activities can help to mobilize fluids that accumulate in the injured area, thereby reducing swelling and inflammation.
  2. Help prevent stiffness and loss of range of motion: Gentle movements ensure that your joints and muscles remain flexible and do not become stiff, which is crucial for a full recovery.
  3. Speed up the healing process: Increased blood flow delivers essential nutrients and oxygen to the injured tissues, which can accelerate the repair process.
  4. Improve your overall mood: Engaging in light physical activities can release endorphins, which are known to boost mood and help combat feelings of depression or anxiety that often accompany injury recovery.

How to Incorporate Active Recovery Into Your Rehabilitation Plan

If you've been injured, it's important to talk to your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any active recovery exercises. They will be able to give you a tailored plan that meets your specific needs and ensures that you're not doing anything that could further injure yourself. Once you have the all-clear from your doctor or PT, there are a few different ways you can incorporate active recovery into your day-to-day life:


Stretching helps maintain range of motion and flexibility, both of which are essential for healing. When stretching, focus on the areas around the injury to avoid putting too much strain on the injured part itself. Regular stretching can prevent scar tissue from limiting your movement and ensure that your muscles remain supple. Make sure not to push yourself too hard—if a stretch is painful, stop immediately.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises are crucial for rebuilding muscle strength and supporting the injured area. These exercises should be low-intensity and gradually increase in difficulty as your body heals. Your physical therapist can guide you on which exercises are appropriate for your specific injury and stage of recovery.

Wearing a Brace

Wearing a brace can provide support and stability to the injured area, preventing further injury while allowing for safe movement. Braces can be particularly helpful for joint injuries, such as those involving the knee, ankle, or wrist. Ensure that the brace is fitted correctly and used according to your healthcare provider's recommendations.

ie. Using a brace for a knee injury is an effective way to provide additional support and stability during activities that require knee movement, helping to prevent further injury and promote healing. A knee brace can help by distributing the weight and pressure more evenly across the joint, reducing the strain on the injured area. When performing activities such as walking, light jogging, or engaging in low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling, a knee brace can offer the necessary support to maintain proper alignment and protect the knee from excessive lateral movements or twisting.


Incorporating physiotherapy into your active recovery plan is crucial for a comprehensive and guided approach to healing. These professionals use a combination of techniques, including manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, and modalities to promote healing. During physiotherapy sessions, your therapist will assess your progress, adjust your exercises, and ensure that you are performing movements correctly to avoid re-injury. They can provide hands-on treatments to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and improve mobility. Additionally, a physiotherapist can educate you on proper body mechanics and ergonomic practices to prevent future injuries.During physiotherapy sessions, your therapist will assess your progress, adjust your exercises, and ensure that you are performing movements correctly to avoid re-injury.

Proper Nutrition

Nutrition plays a key role in the healing process. A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins supports tissue repair and recovery. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseed, can reduce inflammation, while antioxidants, found in fruits and vegetables, help combat oxidative stress. Staying hydrated is equally important, as water is essential for all cellular functions.

Other Holistic Recovery Steps

Holistic recovery steps may include practices such as massage therapy, massage gun, cupping, acupuncture, meditation, ice/heat, and mindfulness. These approaches can help manage pain, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. Discuss these options with your healthcare provider to determine which may be beneficial for your recovery.

Important Considerations

While incorporating active recovery into your routine, there are several important considerations to keep in mind to ensure that you are facilitating, rather than hindering, your healing process:

  • Listen to Your Body: The most crucial aspect of active recovery is paying attention to how your body responds to different activities. If you experience pain or discomfort, stop the activity and consult your healthcare provider.
  • Progress Gradually: Start with the least intensive activities and gradually increase the intensity as your body adapts. Rushing the process can lead to setbacks.
  • Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for tissue repair and overall health. Ensure you are drinking enough water throughout your recovery.

Case Study

Emily’s Sprained MCL Recovery

Emily, an active 35-year-old, sprained her medial collateral ligament (MCL) while playing soccer. The injury caused significant pain, swelling, and instability in her knee. After an initial period of rest and using the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to reduce swelling, Emily's doctor advised her to start active recovery to promote healing and restore function to her knee.

Physiotherapy Sessions

Regular physiotherapy sessions played a critical role in Emily’s recovery. Her physical therapist monitored her progress, adjusted her exercise regimen, and provided manual therapy to alleviate pain and improve mobility. Techniques such as massage, joint mobilization, and ultrasound therapy were used to reduce inflammation and promote healing. The therapist also educated Emily on proper movement techniques and body mechanics to prevent future injuries.

Gentle Stretches

In addition to cycling, Emily incorporated gentle  stretches into her daily routine. These stretches helped maintain her flexibility and prevent muscle stiffness. Some of the stretches she practiced included:

  • Seated Hamstring Stretch: Sitting on the floor with her legs extended, Emily gently leaned forward, reaching towards her toes while keeping her back straight. This stretch targeted the hamstrings, which are crucial for knee support.
  • Quadriceps Stretch: While standing and holding onto a chair for balance, Emily bent her knee and brought her heel towards her buttocks, holding her ankle with her hand. This stretch helped maintain flexibility in her quadriceps.
  • Strengthening Exercises

    Emily’s physical therapist introduced a series of strengthening exercises to rebuild muscle around her knee and improve overall joint stability. Some of these exercises included:

    • Straight Leg Raises: Lying on her back with one leg bent and the other straight, Emily lifted the straight leg to the height of the bent knee, held it for a few seconds, and then lowered it slowly. This exercise strengthened her quadriceps without placing stress on her knee.
    • Heel Slides: Lying on her back, Emily bent one knee and slowly slid her heel towards her buttocks, then straightened the leg back out. This exercise helped improve her knee’s range of motion and flexibility.
    • Clamshells: Lying on her side with her knees bent, Emily kept her feet together and lifted the top knee, keeping her hips steady. This exercise targeted the hip abductor muscles, which play a role in knee stability.

    Stationary Cycling at Low Resistance

    Emily began her active recovery with stationary cycling at low resistance. The cycling motion helped increase blood flow to her knee, delivering essential nutrients and oxygen to the healing tissues without putting undue stress on the joint. This low-impact exercise also helped her maintain cardiovascular fitness and build strength in her quadriceps and hamstrings, muscles that support the knee. Emily cycled for 10-15 minutes a day, gradually increasing the duration as her knee grew stronger and more stable.

    Wearing the Trainer’s Choice Hinged Knee Brace

    Throughout her recovery, Emily consistently wore the Trainer’s Choice hinged knee brace during her exercises and daily activities. The brace provided stability and confidence, allowing her to move freely without fear of re-injury. Its adjustable straps and hinges ensured a snug fit and proper alignment, which was crucial for her healing process.


    By diligently following her active recovery plan, Emily experienced significant improvements in her knee’s strength and flexibility. Within a few months, she was able to walk without pain, engage in light jogging, and return to her favorite activities, such as yoga and hiking.

    Common Misconceptions About Active Recovery

    There are several misconceptions about active recovery that can deter individuals from incorporating it into their rehabilitation plans:

    • Misconception 1: Complete Rest is Always Better: While rest is crucial immediately following an injury, prolonged inactivity can lead to stiffness, muscle atrophy, and delayed healing. Active recovery promotes circulation and flexibility, which are essential for efficient healing.
    • Misconception 2: Active Recovery Means Intense Exercise: Active recovery involves low-intensity activities that do not strain the injured area. It’s about gentle movement and gradual progression, not pushing your limits.
    • Misconception 3: Active Recovery is Only for Athletes: Anyone recovering from an injury can benefit from active recovery, regardless of their fitness level. Tailored plans can be created to suit individual needs and abilities.


    Incorporating active recovery into your rehabilitation plan is a great way to speed up the healing process while still allowing your body the necessary time to recuperate. Unlike complete rest, active recovery promotes blood flow, reduces inflammation, and helps maintain flexibility and strength. By engaging in low-intensity activities such as stretching, gentle strengthening exercises, and using supportive devices like braces, you can foster an environment conducive to healing. Consulting with healthcare professionals is crucial to developing a tailored plan that meets your unique needs, ensuring that you are not inadvertently causing further harm to your injury.

    Active recovery encompasses more than just physical activities. Proper nutrition, hydration, and holistic recovery steps, such as mindfulness and stress management, significantly contribute to the healing journey. Emily’s case study exemplifies the power of a comprehensive active recovery plan, demonstrating that recovery is most effective when physical, nutritional, and psychological factors are addressed simultaneously. By following a well-structured plan, under the guidance of healthcare professionals, you can significantly improve your recovery outcomes, return to your pre-injury activities more quickly, and build resilience and strength for the future.