Physio Talks

The Tissue Healing Race

In order to help patients obtain the best preset for how long it will take to get better, I often refer them to the healing cycles for various tissues, skin and muscle, bone, tendon and ligament. When these get injured, there is a reasonably well-established time it takes for each to heal. Knowing how long it takes for something to heal can help provide the patient an idea of when they will be able to be back in full action. The knowledge might help with the patience needed in rehabilitation.
Healing does not occur all at once, it happens over a period, and each period has its standard time. All these times depend on the size and severity of the injury and how much circulation the tissue has, and the age of the patient. All injuries, except bone, heal with a scar, whether you can see it or not.
Skin and muscle have their initial healing in 8 to 10 days, the standard time for removing stitches from a cut. But, and this is a biggie, if you whack the injury immediately after the stitches have been removed the cut pops open again and you start over. The same would happen with a muscle tear that has started to heal and is pulled, jerked, whacked or asked for too much effort. The muscle tear goes back to square 1, or worse.
Ligament and tendon achieve their initial healing in 3 weeks (21 days) like when the stitches are taken out of a cut. But their healing is nowhere nearly complete. To be safe, a surgical repair of a tendon, like in shoulder surgery, will be immobilized for 6 weeks, and then gradually be reactivated. Full healing, with a solid scar is not for 3 months.
So, the next time you are watching an elite sports event and the announcer is talking about a player having a sprained ankle (torn ligaments around the ankle) but had lots of treatment over the past week, and they are hoping the athlete will be ready for competition this week or next, remember the athletes are getting paid for their participation and pain, as are the sponsors of the athletic event. So, there is intense economic incentive to get the athlete back in action, ready or not. Watch retired athletes walking. I bet more than a few are limping because of the arthritis caused by chronically unstable joints created by the hasty return to full participation.
These comments are general in nature. Be sure to check with your physio or doctor if you are not sure whether they apply to your situation.

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