Whether muscle, ligaments, tendons or bone, injuries can come in all shapes and plague us with all manners of pain, weakness, and loss of mobility. However, while not all injuries heal the same way, they do heal in a very predictable pattern that can be recognized, understood, and with a professional Physiotherapist, treated properly. So if you’ve suffered injury in the distant or recent past, here’s how Physiotherapy can help you through each step of the recovery process.
Lasting from the day of the injury, and up to a week, this is where pain and weakness is at its peak. It’s also where we often employ the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. While easy to recognize and easy to manage on your own or with doctor’s advice, you might be hurting your recovery if you rely solely on rest.
While the early stages of an injury require the most rest, they also require an active and assertive strategy for recovery. So specialized Physio programs will do your body more good than simply letting your body succumb to atrophy and decline due to injury.
It’s our recommendation that, in the course of recovery, and especially during the acute phase, that you don’t create an at-home Physio plan – that could worsen the injury. All movements you do make should not be causing further pain.
This phase begins a few days after injury and may last nearly a month. This phase is characterized by lowered inflammation/swelling in the injured area. Keep in mind you’re still injured, but your body is beginning to gradually knit together the damage tissue and begin the natural healing process.
This may be the most critical phase in injury recovery, as your muscles and joints will have been considerably weakened due to atrophy. And continued atrophy, left untreated, can increase the risk of further injury.
From a Physiotherapy standpoint, this is where you need to focus on rebuilding a full range of motion with the injured body part. This helps your body to build elasticity and strength in the injured tissue, which will start to pay off quickly as it recovers with a great deal more stability and structure.
Beginning as early as the first week, and lasting up to three months, the remodelling phase is so-called because your body is repairing itself around the injury. This is really the meat-and-potatoes of Physiotherapy’s recovery strategy, and the one you’re most likely to see athletes undergoing. The focus during this phase is rebuilding core strength and flexibility in the injured area. The goal is to train your body to adapt to normal movements.
However, because the divide between the tender Subacute phase and the more robust Remodelling phase can be difficult to distinguish to the layman’s eye, it’s critical that the Remodelling phase be structured and cautioned by a professional Physiotherapist – pushing beyond what’s necessary for your health can risk reinjury.
The two-sided coin of recovery. On the one hand, if you’ve followed a proper Physiotherapy plan alongside a professional – you could be in the Functional Phase. Lasting up to six months, this is about returning you to your previous level of wellness while mitigating risk of reinjury or strain.
On the other hand, if you’ve gone through phases 1 to 3 without proper treatment, you risk entering the chronic phase – whereupon your injury can cause repeated strain, pain, and discomfort for a long period of time, possibly many years.
Entering this phase of recovery can be very clutch-or-choke, depending how you approached your injury. Fortunately, chronic pain can be managed, and the symptoms of injury reduced significantly.
In the case of very severe injuries, a full recovery may not always be possible. With a proper, well-structured Physiotherapy regime, however, there’s always a healthy way to recover from an injury.
Ultimately, your body is as complex a machine as you’ll ever know. Letting your body rest, or rust, after an injury is a sure way to lose mobility and cause pain down the road. Physiotherapy reduces pain by meeting your injury head-on, assessing what you can and cannot do, and giving you a plan that gives you the best possible chances of recovery. So whether it’s muscle, ligament, tendon, or bone – you owe it to yourself to follow the steps of recovery the right way.
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