STRESS – Optimising Injury Healing

Healing from injury or surgery is an important process. Poor healing of muscle, ligaments, tendons and bones can delay your recovery and your return to the things you like doing. If you have had surgery or have open wounds, poor healing can increase wound infections or complications.

Healing from a wound or injury requires you to be in good physical condition. Some things can delay healing such as diabetes, smoking and immunological conditions. You may not realize psychological factors also play a part. Stress, which is a normal and natural reaction, is one factor which has been shown to delay healing of wounds/tissue damage.

Unfortunately, chronic stress promotes habits that can negatively impact on health AND healing. These habits include smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, reduced level of exercise, poor diet choice and poor sleep.   THIS SOUNDS LIKE QUEENSTOWN!!


How stress affects your body:

Many functions in your body are controlled by your autonomic nervous system, there are two parts to this system; the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The SNS kicks in when your body perceives it is in danger (such as jumping out of the way of a wayward car). It is the fight/flight response. The SNS is also activated when we are under physical stress, such as an injury or a heavy exercise session. Emotional or psychological stress can cause the SNS to work for long periods, which is detrimental to regular body function and can cause clinically relevant delays in healing.

The SNS functions are related to ‘survival’. When activated it helps increase blood flow to your muscles (so you can run away), by reducing the blood flow to your internal organs. If the SNS stays activated for long periods (such as stress), it can have detrimental effects on the functions of your organs such as digestion, fertility and growth (healing).

It is normal for both the SNS and PNS to work together daily, the PNS should be dominant while resting/sleeping to encourage the ‘rest and digest’ functions. The SNS should be more dominant when you are more active, to increase blood to muscles and your breathing and heart rates. Between spikes of SNS activity you should return to a more relaxed/PNS state.

SMOKING – Optimising Injury Healing

Smoking – we all know it’s bad for your health and it is the cause of many serious health problems.  Each cigarette contains over 4000 chemicals, 70 of which have been identified as causing cancer.  In fact, every cigarette takes 11 mins off your life expectancy.


But, did you know that smoking slows our body’s healing?  Every lungful of smoke you inhale prolongs your recovery time from an injury.  How?  Well, our lungs should be filled with oxygen rich air (not smoke) that passes from our lungs into our blood which flows around our bodies, keeping our tissues healthy and healing our damaged tissues.  Essentially oxygen is “food” for our bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments.  If you smoke, you truly are starving your injury of food and its ability to heal.  On top of all that, nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it closes the blood vessels and further limits blood flow to the extremities.   It gets worse – smoking also makes our blood thicker, making it harder to travel through the already narrowed blood vessels.   Think of a busy four lane motorway being your blood vessels and the passengers in the car are oxygen (that tissue food).  If you smoke it’s like blocking two of those lanes off.  Imagine how long it will now take to get all those passengers (oxygen) to their destination (your injury).   That is your recovery time from your injury increasing.


SLEEP – Optimising Injury Healing

Sleep is one of the most important elements of injury prevention and healing.  Benefits of sleep include:


  • Improved reaction times
  • Decreased injury rates
  • Longer playing careers
  • Improved weight management
  • Decreased injury risk
  • Increased accuracy and sprint times
  • Improved mental acuity
  • Fewer mental errors
  • Improved cognitive function (attention and memory)


How does sleep affect injury healing?


  1. It directly impacts your immune system

A healthy, strong immune system is crucial to all types of healing. Without a strong immune system, you cannot properly create healthy tissue, fight infections and stay on the path to a successful recovery.  When you do not get enough sleep during the wound healing process, your immune system can become depleted, raising your risk of elongating healing time and developing infections.


  1. It slows down tissue growth

Of course, for wounds to heal successfully, healthy tissue growth is key. When does this essential growth happen? While you sleep. The growth and repair of tissue occurs in the third and fourth stages of sleep, which happen after you have completed about 70 percent of your rest. This means that getting a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep is crucial – a few naps here and there will not cut it.


  1. It can trigger and exacerbate coronary issues 

Sleep deprivation can have an adverse effect on the heart health. Because coronary function affects your overall well-being, this is yet another reason to prioritize your rest. Health Line noted that heart disease can be a root cause of poor circulation, which can delay or interfere with the healing process.


  1. It can compromise healthy eating habits 

When you are constantly tired, your body is seeking ways to create more energy. This can lead to cravings for sugary, fatty foods that are not good for your body, and that may further delay the healing process.  People who do not get enough sleep are also more likely to consume bigger portions, which can lead to unwanted weight gain.


How many hours a night do I need?


  • School age children (6 – 13 years): 9 – 11 hours
  • Teenagers (14 – 17 years): 8 – 10 hours
  • Adults (18 – 64 years): 7 – 9 hours
  • Older adults (65+ years): 7 – 8 years

Sleep tips:

How much sleep do YOU need?

  • Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep?
  • Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
  • Do you have health issues such as being overweight?
  • Are you at risk for any disease?
  • Are you experiencing sleep problems?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • Do you feel sleepy when driving?

Did you know?

The amount of sleep you need on a regular basis for optimal performance is called your basal sleep need.

The accumulated sleep that’s lost from poor sleep habits, sickness, waking up in the night and other causes is known as your sleep debt.

An imbalance of the two leads to an unresolved sleep debt, which can lead to increased sleepiness and less alertness.  One or two good nights of sleep may not be enough to settle your unresolved sleep debt, so it is important to get consistent nights of decent sleep in order to make up for this.

HYDRATION – Optimising Injury Healing

Keep yourself hydrated for optimal recovery from your injury.

We are essentially 60-70% water and this water is vital for everything from boosting your brain power; improving your skin; to assisting in your body’s defence when injured.

When dealing with an injury, hydration is an essential part of the healing process. In a dehydrated state, our body will pull water from our skin and muscles to protect our organs.

Without proper hydration, your skin and muscles will not receive the proper oxygen and nutrients it needs in order to heal.  There are three stages of tissue repair; inflammation, proliferation and remodelling following injury. In each stage, water is a primary catalyst to help move from one stage to the next. Water is used as a vessel to supply the required chemicals, nutrients and oxygen required for healing.

Dehydration can lead to:

Cramps – your body needs both water and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride) to support normal muscle contractions. When you sweat heavily during workouts, you lose both, which causes cramps.

Cartilage wear – water and electrolytes are essential in delivering nutrients that help cartilage repair itself when it’s injured. If you stop drinking water, the wear and tear on your cartilage (especially your knees) outpaces the body’s ability to generate new cells. Injuries like cartilage tears and meniscus tears can result.

Friction in the joints – cartilage is made of collagen, proteins, cells, synovial fluid, and water — up to 80% water. This water and synovial fluid cushions your bones when they bear weight or pressure. The meniscus, for example, pads your knee joint and allows the leg bones to move smoothly past one another without grinding. Dehydration can deprive your cartilage of the water it needs to maintain this cushion, which can lead to achy or “creaking” joints and osteoarthritis (OA).

We all need to stay hydrated to stay healthy. But if you’re active or athletic, hydration is even more important because you’re losing water to sweat. If you hope to avoid injury, replacing water and electrolytes needs to be a pillar of your sports training routine.


If you exercise vigorously you should drink a glass of water before starting, and then have half a glass every 15 minutes. This will prevent dehydration and improve performance.


The best drink for avoiding dehydration is water. Water is a sugar-free, calorie-free nutrient and is optimal for good health. If you don’t like the taste of tap or bottled water, you can make your own “spa water” at home by adding lemon, cucumber, or mint for flavour. You can also flavour water with slices of fresh fruit like apples, orange, or grapefruit.

The challenge of Back Pain

Over 80% of New Zealander’s will experience back pain in their lifetime, so chances are you’re one of them!  This is a great resource to help you understand why your back hurts, changes you can make to your day to day life to prevent and recover from a sore back.

Queenstown Mountain Bike Club

Hey, check out the link below.

Nice shout out from Queenstown Mountain Bike Club. Amazing facilities that is provided by a dedicated team. Glad to be part of it. Enjoy the sounds at Gorge Rd Jump Park this summer.

Don’t forget that we offer all QTMC members a discount on any ACC treatments,16188/iceman2058,94

The Dreaded ACL

Those words you never want to hear your health professional say “you’ve ruptured your ACL”, they can bring a grown man to tears. It is that time of year again when unsuspecting skiers and snowboarders walk into the clinic with a swollen knee that isn’t too painful but “just doesn’t feel right”.

The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of four major knee ligaments. The ACL is critical to knee stability. ACLinjuries make up 10-15% of all skifield injuries.

The ACL attaches to the knee end of the Femur (thigh bone), at the back of the joint and passes down through the knee joint to the front of the flat upper surface of the Tibia (shin bone).

A torn ACL usually occurs through a twisting force being applied to the knee whilst the foot is firmly planted on the ground or upon landing. Your knee is only designed to bend and straighten.  When an ACLinjury occurs, you may feel a pop within the knee, the sensation of the knee “giving out” significant swelling over the few hours after injury and have difficulty straightening your knee. 

Can we prevent ACL injuries? Unfortunately some times the mechanism and forces are just too great but we can certainly be aware and try to protect our knees on the ski fields. 

  • Do conditioning and strengthening exercises of the quadriceps and hamstring before ski season starts. This is the number one protection. See our winter exercises.
  • Ski/Ride easier at the end of the day, when you are typically fatigued. Avoid difficult trails, big air, lots of moguls, and speed on ice. Take it easy in the late afternoon.
  • Be careful getting on and off chairlifts.
  • Do regular stretching exercises for the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip, back, shoulder. The more you stretch, the less likely you are to snap.
  • Use gear that is fit to you and is tuned up.
  • Check your bindings for release tension. Do not set them too tight!

Western Acupuncture

Western Acupuncture is a popular style of treatment with clinicians working with musculoskeletal conditions.

Western acupuncture utilizes the meridian points of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture. It is used by physiotherapists to achieve pain relief via the stimulation of the nervous system. The body produces its own natural neurochemicals, such as endorphins for pain relief; melatonin to promote sleep and serotonin to promote well being.  When needles are introduced to the body it stimulates production of these chemicals, assisting the body’s healing process and pain relief as an adjunct for other musculoskeletal techniques.

The acupuncture needle bears little resemblance to those used in injections and blood tests. They are much finer and are solid rather than hollow. When the needle is inserted, the sensation is often described as a tingling or dull ache.

Needles are normally left in place for 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the effect required. During treatment patients commonly experience heaviness in the limbs or a pleasant feeling of relaxation.

Anna Hazlett has recently returned to our Queenstown Physiotherapy team from the UK where she studied Western Acupuncture. Allowing us at Queenstown Physiotherapy to be able to offer you another dimension to your rehabilitation

Stand up Straight

Bad posture is often directly related to pain and discomfort. Good posture is a form of fitness in which the muscles of the body support the skeleton in an alignment that is stable and efficient during movement.

Our spine is designed mechanically to load the joint surfaces correctly when we sit or stand with the normal curvature of our spine. This reduces stress on the passive structures of ligaments, discs, and cartilage. Prolonged poor posture loads up these structures which are not designed to take such loads and results in muscles lengthening and weakening further contributing to increased load on these passive structures. For every 2cm that the head moves forward in posture, it increases the weight of the head on the neck by 4 kgs!!

This extra load can cause joint, disc, muscle or referred pain.

Our postural muscles are amazing and when kept strong and stretched can cope with the day to day loads we endure.  But remember it has taken months/years of poor posture to become painful so to regain muscle control and length takes time and effort.

Physiotherapists are trained in posture assessment, ergonomics and spinal mobilisations to optimise alignment of spine and ultimately good posture.  Come chat to the team to see what you can change and specific exercises for your hobbies to avoid postural pain.

7 Weeks

Rachel Hunter said “it won’t happen over night but it will happen”

7 weeks the time till, fingers crossed, the ski fields will start to open. That means it is time to start training to get those muscles ready for the slopes. Muscle training takes time to create change and ultimately strengthen the muscle fibres. When you use your muscles regularly, they become strong. Increasing muscular strength can keep you from being easily fatigued. It can keep your muscles from become sore or injured. Skiing and snowboarding; are not low impact sports.

If you want to be able ski and snowboard without injury then let’s get some fitness going. It is the time to incorporate snow specific exercises into your regular exercise routine. Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, core stabilisers and triceps are the muscles specific to skiing and snowboarding. Optimise your strength in these muscle groups to reduce the risk of injury and increase your enjoyment and endurance on the slopes.

Click on our weekly Winter Exercises which you can do at the gym or at home.