Why You Shouldn’t Neglect Nutrition During Physical Therapy

By Jessica Tranchina, PT, DPT – November 9, 2022

Fueling your body with proper nutrition while undergoing physical therapy for an injury may not be a thought that comes to mind initially, but according to the American Physical Therapy Association, nutrition is crucial when it comes to healing and recovering from injuries, illnesses and other scenarios. This is mainly because when the body suffers, it has a much higher need for nutrition for several reasons:

  1. When your body enters into a “healing state” due to an illness or injury, it requires much higher levels of energy. The reason for this is that your body is entering into a higher metabolic state. It requires energy (calories) beyond what is typically required when you’re uninjured.
  2. Your immune system experiences an immediate state of weakening due to the stress and/or shock of the injury. If nutritional needs are not met, this could lead to detriment of the immune function.
  3. When an injury occurs, your body immediately decreases the use of the injured area due to the trauma to protect it; therefore, the lack of use and trauma leads to the atrophy of the muscles involved. Proper nutrition, such as protein, aids in combating this atrophy.
  4. If you incur a wound and don’t have proper nutrition, you’ll increase your risk of an infection developing.
  5. When an injury occurs, inflammation develops. It’s paramount to your recovery to ingest the proper anti-inflammatory nutrients or there may be a dramatic delay in healing.
  6. Any type of physiological-based stress could lead to the development of fatigue. Proper nutrition will combat this level of fatigue.

All body tissues need nutrients because they’re composed of nutrients, which is the basis of creation when it comes to neurotransmitters. They play an active role in the regenerative processes of the body and help in the process of physically adapting to physical activity.

Assorted fruits in a bowl.

Of course, everyone’s nutritional needs are different and will be evaluated based on various factors such as your age, level of physical activity, the types of medications you use, and the injuries and/or illnesses for which you’re being treated.

Here are some important nutrients to ingest and the reasons:

  1. Proteins aid in the growth and strengthening of bones, muscles and connective tissues.
  2. Calcium helps build bones, allows our blood to properly clot, helps in muscle contractions and enables our heart to beat.
  3. Magnesium is a requirement for more than 300 different biochemical reactions that occur within the body. It helps function the nerves and muscles, strengthens the immune system and ensures the strength of both the heart and bones.
  4. Zinc helps the metabolism in the body and ensures the functionality of the immune system. It’s also a necessary mineral for the healing of wounds.
  5. Copper is critical to maintaining health in the blood vessels, bones, nerves and immune system. Additionally, it helps the body in the process of iron absorption.
  6. Silica helps in strengthening all of the connective tissues that are part of the nervous system, and it plays a role in stabilizing the release of insulin from the pancreas.

Along with these essential nutrients, here is a great article on specific vitamins and nutrients beneficial for bone and muscle recovery. Vitamins help ensure that the cells develop, grow and function appropriately. Naturally, cells are an essential component of all aspects of your body. As mentioned earlier, it’s essential to ingest proper nutrition during your healing process because nutrients are lost within the body during this time due to stress, injury or illness. 

In summary, if you combine proper nutrition with your physical therapy routine, you’ll see more immediate benefits of physical therapy. You’ll discover that you have significantly less inflammation and pain throughout your body. Your treatment outcomes will improve significantly, and your immune system will be much stronger. 


About the Author

Jessica Tranchina smiling.

Jessica Tranchina, PT, DPT, is a co-founder of Generator Athlete Lab and has been an athlete her whole life. As the creator of the Generator Method, Tranchina works to help guide others to better performance and recovery and is passionate about bringing the active community of Austin together from all fitness levels and athletic backgrounds. She is the owner of PRIMO Performance and Rehabilitation, which started in Austin in 2010, where her expertise and unique skill set have been established as one of the best in her field. NASM-CPT, ART Certified Provider, CKTP.


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