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Healing From an Injury

An injury occurs when the force applied to the tissue is greater than what the tissue can handle, we call this the mechanism of injury (MOI). Once an injury is sustained our body goes through stages of healing to help return the injured area to its normal function.

The purpose of rehabilitation is: to create an environment for optimal and efficient healing through the use of manual therapy, modalities (ultrasound, acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical stimulation, etc) and exercise.

What are the Stages of Healing?

Stage 1: Inflammation

This stage begins immediately, from the moment after the MOI happens. This stage usually lasts for 72 hours and is defined by the following:

S - swelling

H - heat

A altered function of the affected area

R - redness

P pain

Our body needs inflammation to occur because this is how the injured area receives healing factors, nutrients and oxygen while damaged tissue is removed, allowing proper healing to take place.

How will a rehabilitation specialist help you during the inflammation phase?

  1. Identify the injury to determine the best and most efficient treatment program.
  2. Control the swelling with appropriate manual therapy and exercises.
  3. Limit further damage by providing you guidelines of what to avoid, alter or continue.

Stage 2: Fibroblastic Repair 72 hours to 6 weeks

This stage is all about building new tissue and begins around the 72-hour mark. While this stage can continue for up to 6 weeks, it is dependent on the individual. At this time the body is bringing in new healing factors and tissues to heal the injured area. For the first couple weeks of this stage the injury can still be fragile which is why it is important to do appropriate exercises to encourage strengthening of the newly forming tissues.

How will a rehabilitation specialist help you during the fibroblastic repair phase?

The goal is to encourage the new tissues that are healing the injury to lie along the line of stress. This means that specific exercises should be prescribed to encourage the new tissue to function as closely to the old tissue previous to injury. In this stage modified sports specific exercises will be prescribed to keep the rehab process interesting and best suited for the individual.

Stage 3: Maturation and Remodeling - 6 weeks+

Depending on the tissue and the degree to which it was injured, this stage can take a long time and if not done properly, an injury can linger for years. This stage is all about strengthening the newly formed tissue. It is a natural process for new tissue to breakdown and build up to gain strength, which happens through physical stress or exercise.

How will a rehab specialist help you during the maturation and remodeling phase?

  1. Assess technique and full body movement to ensure compensations are minimal to reduce the risk of a secondary injury.
  2. Push rehab exercises at an appropriate pace not too fast, but also not too slow.
  3. Create an individualized home exercise program. For example a runner would require a different program than a power lifter.
  4. Use manual therapy and/or modalities where appropriate.

Take home points:

  • The healing process cannot be sped up, but rehab professionals such as an Athletic Therapist, Chiropractor or Physiotherapist, can help to create an optimal environment for healing, thus not prolonging the process.
  • Having an individualized plan based on the person, their sport and the injury is important for the most efficient recovery.
  • Rehab specialists do not want to stop you from being active because of an injury, they want to keep the remainder of your uninjured body active while helping to rehab the injury effectively and efficiently.

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