How long will it take for my injury to get better?
This is the question we all want answered when we injure ourselves! How long till I’m back on the field? How long till I can get back to work? How long till I can pick up my kids from the floor without it hurting? There are many factors that affect our healing and recovery time and these include
- Your age – your healing process slows down as you get older
- Whether you’ve had this particular injury previously
- Your diet
- Whether you follow your physio’s treatment advice
- Lifestyle factors – including what you do for work, family demands
One of the most important factors that could impact on your recovery time is how soon you seek treatment following the injury. The sooner you seek treatment the sooner we can begin the healing process and develop a treatment plan and the sooner you will be back to 100%. Why does the timing matter? This is because our body’s go through specific healing phases and if you present for treatment too late or too infrequently, your body will stop the healing process before you’ve completely healed. Our physios construct your treatment plan with your goals and these healing phases in mind.
The Inflammatory Phase
From time of injury to 72 hours
Your injury will more then likely be painful, swollen, red or hot to touch. It is crucial in this phase to initiate breakdown of damaged tissue and remove it from the area (i.e. reducing swelling). The treatment for this will depend on the area that has been injured – for a sprained joint or muscle strain of the limbs:
- Alcohol consumption
- Running / activity (excessive amounts of it)
- Massage – gentle massage may be indicated at the discretion of your physio as this may aid early healing
The Repair Phase
From 48 hours to 6 weeks after injury
- Injured structures are rebuilt
- Disorganized collagen cells are laid down in the area of the injury forming scar tissue. Scar tissue is not as strong as the previous structure (i.e. ligament or muscle) and can often present as swelling or a lump in the area that was injured.
Your physio will:
- Use hands on treatments including massage or dry needling to restore normal mechanics to the injured area and encourage complete healing to occur. You will more then likely be compensating for the pain and adjusting your normal mechanics for the pain e.g. limping. This can cause muscle imbalances leading to other issues and prevent complete healing. As a result of this, your physio will need to treat you two to three times a week, this will enable them to change the mechanics of your body for longer periods of time to allow the healing to take place.
- Develop a treatment plan that includes modifying activities that you do e.g. sports / house work and things in your environment e.g. work station set up. The modifications are required to avoid re-aggravating your injury and disrupting the healing process.
The Remodeling Phase
From 6 weeks to 3-6 months after injury
- The collagen cells laid down in the repair phase are now getting stronger and are re-arranged in a more organised manner. This is an important phase, your body requires the remodeling to be effective to gain maximum strength and avoid the likelyhood of re-injury.
Physiotherapy management will include:
- Rehabilitation – this could be in the form of Pilates classes, strength and conditioning classes with gym based programs or monthly reviews to adjust your exercise program to your stage of healing or for some maintenance manual therapy. The rehab phase is important to stimulate the remodeling phase accordingly, ensure correct and efficient muscle function and prevent re-injury.
The Maturation Phase
From 3-6 months post injury until 12 months
- Restoration of strength and durability of the injured area to maximise function and limit re-injury
Physiotherapy management will include:
- Similar methods to the remodeling phase with the goal to evolve your maintenance plan to benefit your overall health and well being.
For tendon, cartilage and disc injuries – healing time frames can be expected to be longer as these tissues have poor blood supply and therefore a poor ability to heal. Your physio will advise if this is you and may need to refer you for some scans to confirm the injury.
If you have had pain for more then 3 months after the initial injury you are now in the ‘Chronic’ phase of pain. This means that your injury may be more difficult to treat as your body has not been able to fully heal. Your physio will discuss the implications for your treatment and management with you.