Stages of Healing

written by Alexa Dutchak (Registered Massage Therapist & Kinesiologist ) on 19/09/19

Ouch!…now what!?
What you can do to help yourself after injury and before you have an appointment.

image source: www.backandpaincentre.com

One of my goals for my clients is to help teach them what to do when they inevitably injure or hurt themselves (it happens to all of us!) I want to help you learn how to listen and become a little bit more in tune with your body. I see my clients a tiny fraction of their day, week, month, etc so I want to empower my clients (and everyone!) to know the first few steps of what to do after their back goes into spasm, or experience a shooting pain down their neck and can’t turn their head, or if they have a headache. It’s important to know when those alarm bells are going off and it’s something serious like rolling and spraining your ankle, or worse, a fracture, or a break!

Our body wants to help us, and it will do whatever it can to bring us to a nice equilibrium and healthy state. But sometimes there are factors beyond our control, and some within our control, that prevents our body from effectively helping us heal. For example: we have an immune system to help fight off viral infection, a conscience and sub conscience to help us identify those little red flags in situations, and nerves that provide us feeling and sensation that help us identify something that feels “good” or “bad” in our body. There are so many different things that can damage the healing systems in our body so we will start with tissue injury.

There are 3 major stages of healing that our body goes through to try to help us: acute, sub acute, and chronic stages (in other words short term and long term). Clients reach out for help when they are in all different stages of healing. Acute: “I hurt my back yesterday, it’s hot and burning and hurts to rotate left”; Sub acute, “I rolled my ankle a week ago”; or chronic, “I broke my arm 15 years ago, and it just hasn’t been the same since”.

Acute Stage: The injured tissue responds with inflammation. The body is basically trying to send all healthy substances to the area to help repair. Here you will feel heat, pain and loss of particular movement at joint. To help with healing we need to: control the inflammation (ICE!) and rest the area that hurts but not completely immobilize our body as we still need to circulate blood to the area. In this phase the first 48 hours are very important, but this can last 4-6 days.

Sub-Acute Stage: This is where the body stops focusing on flooding the area with inflammation, but begins to focus on repairing and healing. You may still feel a bit of pain with certain movement, and your range of motion may not be great, but it is improving. This is where you may start to feel stiffness in the area, and can introduce HEAT before you do specific therapeutic range of motion exercises or stretching, and then ICE after this activity. This stage can begin 2-4 days after injury, and last anywhere from 10 days to 6 weeks.

Chronic Stage: The body will now do all kinds of different things to keep you functional. To name a few examples, it will form scar tissue over damaged tissue, it will call upon other muscles to help to make up for lack of function and strength of damaged/repaired muscle, or it will limit your function at a particular joint all together. This phase can last several months, or even years. This is the phase the majority of people become stuck in when the acute and sub-acute stages are not taken care of.

What you may feel and seeWhat you can doWhat a massage/athletic/physio therapist can do
Acute
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Heat
  • Redness
  • Decrease range of motion
  • Rest injured area (but stay as mobile as you can)
  • ICE
  • Help to decrease pain and inflammation
  • Increase circulation to flush of edema
Sub-Acute
  • Pain with certain movement
  • Overall stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Heat before rehab stretches or exercises
  • ICE
  • Don’t push body too far too soon
  • Self treatment with lacrosse ball or foam roller etc.
  • Same as above and…
  • Treat the area
  • Prevent scar tissue build up
  • Treat to promote normal function of area
  • Chronic
    • Sometimes nothing until you try to do certain movements…
    • Then possible pain, stiffness and weakness at times
    • Safely challenge your range of motion and strength (still be cautious)
    • Self treatment with lacrosse ball or foam roller etc.
    • Full treatment
    • Break up scar tissue
    • Provide more challenging stretches and rehab exercises
    • Help to continue to improve function and range of motion

    Help your body help itself.

    Too often we ignore the alarm bells and warnings our body gives us. We are not weak or silly if we take pause to heal. If we don’t listen, our body will intensify the pain or illness to knock us out off our feet and force us to rest! How often have you thought, “I should go try that yoga class”, “I should really take a day off”, or “I should go see my massage therapist”, to only put it off for days, weeks, months even years, and things get worse?

    Take care of your body today! Not tomorrow, or next week or next year…your body will thank you!

    Reach out and let’s get your body back on track. You can reach me at info@dynamicwellness or follow me on instagram at dynamicwellnesswpg_rmt

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