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Part of the torment of falling sick (or just plain falling) is lying around wondering when you’re even going to feel better. That’s when many people make the mistake of hobbling around before they should, then end up prolonging the agony. Here’s what to expect from some common ailments, and how to speed them along.

Sprained Ankle

Recovery Time: Three to four days for a simple sprain; up to two weeks for a more serious one. Many people lengthen recovery time by walking before the should, says Robert Schiller, MD, chairman of family medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

How To Speed Recovery: Treat a sprain aggressively at the beginning—ice it every hour or so for the first 48 hours; after that apply heat. Wrap it securely (especially around the front of the foot, to stabilize the ankle), stay off it, and elevate it to knee level.

Also Try: The herbal pain reliever arnica montana, available as a topical gel or cream (just make sure the skin isn’t broken).


Recovery Time: The acute phase usually lasts three to four days, but various symptoms can stick around for up to two weeks, says Marianne Legato, MD, professior of clinical medicine at Columbia University and an internist in private practice in New York City.

How To Speed Recovery: Take vitamin C (1,000-4,000 milligrams a day) at the first sign of a sore throat, Schiller says. Drink lots of fluids and, if you’re a regular exerciser, work out at 50 percent intensity. (Standard over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants will allay symptoms but won’t speed recovery.)

Also Try: Zinc lozenges and echinacea, which may shorten the duration of a cold; slippery elm for coughs; and a vaporizer or humidifer to add moisture to the air and reduce irritation. For a stuffy nose, Grandma’s old remedy: Put eucalyptus oil in a bowl of hot water, drape a towel over year head, and breathe.

Next: How to recover from the flu, a pulled back, and more...

Respiratory Flu

Recovery Time: About seven days. “Often the flu means a week of feeling flat-on-your-back sick,” Legato says, “and another two weeks of feeling very tired.”

How To Speed Recovery: Baby yourself at the beginning, Schiller advices. When you feel it coming on, go home and rest. If the fever is bearable, try to avoid drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen—some studies show that reducing a fever lengthens the duration of the flu, possibly because a slightly higher body temperature gives white cells an edge in their attack on the virus.

Also Try: Echinacea and the homeopathic treatment Oscillococcinum at the first signs of illness.

Stomach Flu

Recovery Time: Typically one to two days. It’s short, Schiller says, because your digestive tract lining turns over fully every three days (so you start with a clean slate and no trace of the bug).

How to Speed Recovery: Wait three days before returning to your typical diet. Until then, take in only clear liquids and plain starches like crackers, toast, rice, and pasta.

Also try: Chamomile tea.

Urinary Tract Infection

Recovery Time: With antibiotics, symptoms resolve in 24 to 36 hours (but be sure to finish the full course, which can last up to two weeks). Some symptoms will go away on their own, Legato says.

How To Speed Recovery: Drink lots of water. Help prevent a UTI by urinating before and after sex.

Also Try: Cranberry juice or cranberry extract. Schiller also suggests acidifying your urine with vitamin C (several doses of 500 milligrams throughout the day).

Pulled Back

Recovery Time: Extremely variable, from one day to several weeks.

How To Speed Recovery: Ice if it’s a sudden pull. Take an anti-inflammatory until two days after the pain stops, to reduce swelling. Doctors may also prescribe Valium, Legato says, because it relaxes muscle tissue.

Also Try: Therapeutic massage and acupuncture.

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