When we experience and injury our body has an amazing internal ability to heal. But, most of us wish to speed up the healing process. So, the question becomes, “Can proper rehabilitation and appropriate nutrition decrease healing time and allow a quicker, safer return to normal activity?” In short, yes. Here’s why.
First, a quick physiology lesson on the basic 3 Stages of Healing: Inflammation, Proliferation and Remodeling.
Stage 1: Inflammation
This stage is characterized by pain, redness, and inflammation at the injured site, which is often accompanied by heat. Chemicals that aid in the healing process are naturally pulled to this area. Inflammation is needed to initiate the repair process, but if it lasts too long, it can create additional damage.
On days 1-7 use the RICE Principle to minimize inflammation. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. From day 3 to week 3, when inflammation signs are much reduced, it is appropriate to move the involved joint through its full range and begin gentle, painless strengthening.
Specific foods that are low in saturated fats can aid in progressing an injured patient through this process.
Stage 2 and 3: Proliferation and Remodeling
During the Proliferation Stage your body will rid itself of the inflammatory products and will naturally generate new collagen (scar tissue). This is the substance that will ultimately create strength and stability for the tissues. During Remodeling, the tissues are refined by movement and strengthening.
The timeframes for the Proliferation Stage and Remodeling Stages overlap, and they can range from a week to several months as the body manages the injury. During these times, an injured patient can increase the resistance and the repetitions of a given exercise (again, being sure to keep the activity pain-free). The next progression is to perform activities to allow return to specific tasks which may involve speed, flexibility, sport or work specific movements. This can begin as early as a few weeks after an injury, or it can take months in the case of a chronic muscle tear or severe sprain.
Lean meats and a variety of fruits and vegetables allow for the best new collagen production.
The human body is complex and incredible. It utilizes predictable stages of healing that must be recognized in order to maximize recovery. During the proliferation and remodeling stages, if the tissue is well-stressed and moved appropriately, healing can be faster and ultimately better than a non-specific rehab regimen. But, if the new tissue is simply left alone, the new collagen fibers can become unorganized and weak, which will predispose that area to another injury. When skilled rehabilitation is combined with proper nutrition, injuries heal better and return to sports and active lifestyles can be faster.
Whether the injury is a strain, sprain, contusion or tear, it is always wise to consult with a physical therapist to ensure your recovery is maximized. Visit any of our 14 convenient locations for a FREE injury screen to learn how physical therapy could help you maximize your recovery.