Category: Physiotherapy

July 29, 2015

Life is like a Spartan Race. No, seriously. Let me explain. On June 5, 2015 I participated in the annual Spartan Sprint at Edelweiss Ski Resort. Being a relatively fit individual, I felt I was pretty prepared for the upcoming 5 km obstacle course race. Spartan was to be conquered and I was going to be the conqueror. I was so confident that my plan was to yell “SPARTA” at the top of my lungs using a deep Gerard Butler-like voice while performing air kicks victoriously over the finish line.

Why was I so foolishly confident?

 Three days a week I work out across at the gym doing some form of weight training at the discretion of my trainer. I run three days a week with a good friend of mine for at least a distance of 5km. I also play beach volleyball in a league every Wednesday night. I like to think I am a fairly active person. I can squat, lunge, jump, sprint, burpee, crawl, climb, push and pull.

Spartan had nothing on me, right? Well, here’s the thing about the Spartan Race. You have to run UP the ski-hill at Edelweiss TWICE. Emphasis on the word, UP. Ski hills are not meant to be run UP, they are meant to be skied DOWN. The ascension up the mountain literally kicked my ass!! I was not used to keeping my heart rate so elevated. This resulted in nausea and feelings of pukey-ness. Not a great start for this aspiring conqueror. Let’s just say I cursed gravity quite a bit during this pesky obstacle course!

 

So alas, here are 3 life lessons I learned (or, probably already knew but effectively ignored) while completing the Spartan Sprint.

spartan race 2015 bails

  1. No matter how prepared you feel you might be, sometimes you just aren’t. That’s life. And it’s ok! You can’t be prepared ALL the time. Sometimes you need to get your ass-kicked to remind you that there is still work to be done.
  1. Sometimes winning is just seeing it through. Instead of me yelling “SPARTA” at the top of my lungs while performing air kicks victoriously over the finish line, I hauled my tired, muddy butt over the finish line in a zombie, pain-induced state. But I finished, and it was AWESOME!
  1. You’re better than you think you are. Although the mountain kicked my butt, the obstacles did not. The obstacles actually served as a much needed break from running UP the ski-hill. And the feeling of being strong is one of the best feelings EVER. Just check out my game face captured in this photo of me after I dominated the gymnast-like rings. Clearly I was high-fiving myself in my mind! My body is capable, and that’s pretty cool!

 

Bailey Gresham is a registered physiotherapist for Whole Therapy. She specializes in manual therapy and movement-based therapy. She likes bridging the gap between rehabilitation and performance training.  More about Bailey here.

Bailey

 

June 11, 2015

MEL’S MEANDERING MASSAGE MIND: HOW DRY NEEDLING “SAVED MY LIFE…”

For most of my life I have noticed that my range of motion with my right shoulder isn’t quite up to par with my left. My right anterior deltoid has been in contraction for what seems like forever and I get headaches due to muscular tightness in my upper traps.

For relief in the past, I have gone to massage therapists, chiropractors and physiotherapists, seeking help for ailments that limit my training. Thus far, it has usually been focused on my shoulders and upper back, and the everything has worked temporarily, but I wanted a more permanent solution.

So I asked Bailey (our brilliant physio) to dry needle my upper traps a few times. For those of you who aren’t in the know, dry needling (also know as intramuscular stimulation -IMS) is similar to acupuncture but also completely different. It uses needles to go into trigger points in the muscle belly to try to alleviate the cause of the pain rather than using specific acupuncture points to achieve the same result.

So Bailey dry needled my traps, and lo and behold, my headaches have gone away. What’s more, the contraction in my anterior deltoid also disappeared without her even touching it.

dry needling

Not only has the pain relief been liberating, but the release of my traps has elevated the quality of my workouts; now when I bench press, my right shoulder no longer comes out of position (which used to throw off my bench press constantly). This means I’m now able to begin fixing muscle imbalances that have been creeping up; which means I’m going to be able to ultimately bench more weight! Getting my shoulder fixed has been amazing and is getting me back into lifting with more confidence.

Benching

If this doesn’t have you convinced already: a couple of weeks ago, I hurt myself in the gym. It’s not something that happens often, but when it does, it can be debilitating. On this particular occasion, I couldn’t move due to a rib which had decided it didn’t like its current position and moved slightly out of place. Ouch.

Although seeing Bailey with an acute injury is not always recommended (in most cases, there is nothing that can be done right away), I truly believe that if I didn’t get in to see her, I wouldn’t have recovered so quickly. As it was, I had to cancel my day of massaging; had I not seen her, I’m sure I would have been out for the rest of the week. And believe me, no one wants me to cancel my day; it means you don’t get the treatment that you want and we have to scramble to find another time to get you in quickly!

Now, I don’t want to say that dry needling is for every body, because it’s not. But I have found that this modality works wonders for me that other modalities (massage, chiropractic, and general physiotherapy) haven’t been able to touch. I am grateful for Bailey helping me out with all this, and I couldn’t ask for a better physio to work with!

 

Melissa Beals is an RMT with Whole Therapy. Melissa works extensively with athletes of all levels with a goal in mind to increase their athletic performance through education and understanding of their bodies. See more about Melissa here.

Melissa

April 17, 2015

So the theme of April at Whole Therapy is “letting go.” I struggled with coming up with a blog topic to compliment this theme. This past week, however, I came across this article on the web and thought to myself, Eureka!  This is my teachable, “letting go” moment!

I want to preface by saying that medical imaging technology has developed into something amazing. The amount of stuff we can see without actually cutting into the body is phenomenal. Sounds morbid, I know, but it’s true! Medical imaging can be very valuable in identifying serious medical conditions such as fractures, dislocations, etc. That being said, it is often difficult to discern what findings on imaging are related to natural aging processes or rather a pain-provoking injury? Words like arthritis, degenerative discs, disc bulges, tendon tears all sound very scary! And the fact that they sound scary is a problem in itself. They can create fear- a lot of fear. But, what if I told you that the above are all minor findings and do not really add much value to your plan of care?

Confused? Let me clarify. Mrs. A came to see me at the clinic for a “MRIdisc herniation.” On my subjective intake, I asked Mrs. A about her pain. Mrs. A had NO PAIN. Confused, I asked Mrs. A about her ability to perform her day-to-day activities. Mrs. A had NO DIFFICULTIES performing any of her day-to-day activities. Now very confused, I asked Mrs. A about this suspected “disc herniation.” Mrs. A had a hysterectomy in which she had some complications. She had to undergo repeat CT Scans to make sure all was well and healing appropriately. It just so happened that a disc bulge was seen as an incidental finding on one of these CT scans. Nervous about this finding, Mrs. A sought out physiotherapy to treat her disc herniation, for which she had no pain, no loss of function and for all purposes, NO impairment!

The fact is, arthritis, degenerative discs, disc bulges and tendon tears are usually just a natural result of aging against gravity. Don’t believe me? Check out this recent article (2015!) summarizing a cross-sectional study looking at abnormal findings on MRI in the cervical spine (a.k.a. neck) in 1211 asymptomatic people (a.k.a. NONE of the 1211 people had ANY neck pain). You can find it here: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/25584950\

Three things you should know about neck imaging:

  1. Everyone has disc bulges. This study found that 87.6% of the 1211 had disc bulges and no neck pain. So for every 10 people, 8.76 of them have disc bulges! And remember, none of these people had any pain!
  2. You even have disc bulges in your 20s. They found that 73.3% and 78.0% of males and females in their 20s had disc bulging. Yep, even your 20 something co-worker who barely seems out of the womb probably has a disc bulge.
  3. A small percentage of people even have spinal cord compression and no pain! Sounds unbelievable eh? But 5.3% of people, generally over the age of 50, had evidence of spinal cord compression with no pain. That’s not to say that the compression shouldn’t be monitored, but it goes to show you that the perception of pain is a lot more complicated then we may give it credit for!

Pain in itself is a complicated construct. I’m not trying to undermine anyone’s pain experience, but it is important to recognize that the scary-sounding results on imaging may not be so scary at all. Giving these words power over your life, however, has been shown to lead to more doctor’s visits, more pain, more disability, and a poorer quality of life. The only way to overcome this is to let go of the power we give these words and understand that they are probably just a natural result of aging! Don’t worry, you’re going to be just fine!

Bailey Gresham is a registered physiotherapist for Whole Therapy. She specializes in manual therapy and movement-based therapy. She likes bridging the gap between rehabilitation and performance training.  More about Bailey here.

Bailey

 

 

 

 

 

April 8, 2015

shin splints

If you have been reading my blog, my goal was to initially complete a series on needling in the profession of physiotherapy. Don’t worry folks, I still plan on completing that series! It’s just on pause for now. I have chosen to stray from my previous plan and look at a common problem that plagues many runners, because as we all know, April showers bring May flowers, and a boat-load of running injuries! Also, my boss wanted me to do a blog on running. Since she is of course, my BOSS, I figured I should make like a good employee and write about shin splints!

Shin splints is a funny diagnosis. It’s a funny diagnosis because shin splints is typically used as a catch-all term to describe shin pain. In fact, shin splints is defined by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons as “pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia)”. So in a nut shell, shin splints = shin pain. This makes its diagnosis confusing. Imagine this typical made-up conversation:

              Hello doctor, I have pain in the inner, lower portion of my legs after running.

              That is easy! You have shin splints!

              Oh, that answers EVERYTHING. I have shin splints!

But I just told you that shin splints = shin pain. See the problem here? Shin splints doesn’t actually tell me what’s causing your pain! Here are three reasons you may develop shin pain, also known as the notorious shin splints.

1) Medial tibial stress syndrome. This is also known as “too much, too soon” syndrome. MTSS is typically the result of overloading the tibia with biomechanical inefficiencies. This can lead to periostitis, an inflammation of the membrane (a.k.a. periosteum) covering the bone. Ever wonder why it feels like your bone is bruised? Muscular imbalances commonly seen in the tibialis anterior, tibialis posterior and soleus muscle in combination with excessive pronation often puts too much stress on that poor tibia bone. As a result, the tibia bends and bows more than it should. This pulls on the connective tissue attaching to the bone itself. More pulling = more inflammation = more periostitis = more pain. Addressing the biomechanical inefficiencies while decreasing excessive load is key in making sure this bad guy goes away! It usually presents as a dull, diffuse ache along the bone of the tibia.

2) Compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome is the compression of nerves, blood vessels, and muscles inside a closed space, or compartment, surrounded by a sheet of fascia. There are four different compartments in the lower leg. In order to understand compartment syndrome, you need to understand the role of fascia. Fascia is connective tissue, which attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. It is literally EVERYWHERE in the body. It also does not like to expand very much. As a result, if a compartment in the lower leg swells beyond the stretching capability of the fascia, pressure inside the compartment can increase and increase, and INCREASE. This is serious and can cause tissue death due to the compression of blood vessels (lack of oxygen). If you are experiencing extreme tightness, burning, pins and needles and/or temporary paralysis with running, PLEASE STOP and seek a medical opinion!

3) Tibial stress fracture. A stress fracture is exactly what it sounds like, a fracture or crack in the bone. It is the consequence of the tibia failing mechanically due to repetitive submaximal stress. It is also known as “too much, too soon, too late” syndrome. But Bailey, I’m only running. This is a submaximal stress! How can I get a fracture?! Well, repetitive submaximal stress can cause an imbalance in your body’s ability to resorb bone and form bone. In this case, there is more bone resorption then formation. So even the smallest, most microscopic crack in a bone can progress and worsen under repetitive, submaximal stress. With tibial stress fractures, a runner will experience very localized tenderness directly on the bone. You may even feel a bony anomaly under your finger. Unlike MTSS, you will probably experience pain immediately when you start running in a very point-specific spot. If you suspect a fracture, PLEASE STOP and seek a medical opinion!

Bailey Gresham is a registered physiotherapist for Whole Therapy. She specializes in manual therapy and movement-based therapy. She likes bridging the gap between rehabilitation and performance training.  More about Bailey here.

Bailey

 

 

 

March 25, 2015

AcupunctureSorry for my absence on Whole Therapy’s social media for all of my devout followers (If you are reading this at all, THANK YOU very much!). I was in Cuba for a WHOLE WEEK vacationing from thinking. I’m back though and ready to educate poison all of your minds!

It’s Wednesday and I’ve noticed that I’ve been performing a lot more needling techniques over the last week (with quite a bit of success!). This has inspired me. I feel like writing a series of blogs on the use of needling techniques in the practice of physiotherapy. Today’s goal is to clarify some misconceptions I commonly see in the public’s eyes. In future posts, I’ll look at its utility as an adjunct therapy, because contrary to what some of my client’s might think, I do not enjoy stabbing people with needles just for the fun of it (I will NEVER admit that the masochistic side of me loves seeing that angry, little hypertonic muscle twitch, wink wink).

So here is blog 1 of my needling series!

  1. First of all, I am NOT an acupuncturist. I am a registered physiotherapist who has taken extensive post-graduate course work in order to implement needling techniques as an adjunct therapy in my practice. What does this mean? This means I treat musculoskeletal injuries using acupuncture. I am NOT qualified to treat infertility, digestive issues, silence your nagging spouse, etc using acupuncture. That is outside the scope of practice for physiotherapists. For those types of health concerns, you need to go see a Doctor of Chinese Medicine or your family doctor.
  1. If you’re not an acupuncturist, why are YOU allowed to perform acupuncture then? Physiotherapists who have been trained in Canada now undergo six years of intense training in human anatomy and physiology. Six LONG years! Therefore, the Regulated Health Profession Act (RHPA) provides physiotherapists the authority to perform needling techniques provided we complete the appropriate post-graduate course work to use needling safely (even MORE training). What does this mean? The Regulated Health Profession Act has complete confidence in our ability to use acupuncture. This is because we KNOW the human body. We are little encyclopedias of bones and muscles. We’re pretty much obsessed with the human body (on the cusp of being neurotic). Rest assure, we are knowledgeable and safe!
  1. What schooling do physiotherapists need to take in order to perform acupuncture? There are many post-graduate courses that offer training in acupuncture. I completed two acupuncture and dry needling series with Meridian Health Education (total of 5 courses). Other notable programs include McMaster University’s Acupuncture Program, the Advanced Physical Education Institute, Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, etc. Feel free to enquire as to what your therapist’s educational background is with regards to needling. It is also the law to roster with the Ontario College of Physiotherapists. This means that if you search us up on our Regulatory College website, it shows that we are rostered to perform acupuncture (and the College knows about it). This is really important! If we do not roster, we can get into big trouble! It’s the public’s right to know that our regulatory body is aware of the skills we are qualified to do. And if your therapist isn’t rostered, STOP. They may not have the expertise we pride ourselves on having (BAD, BAD, BAD).

Bailey Gresham is a registered physiotherapist for Whole Therapy. She specializes in manual therapy and movement-based therapy. She likes bridging the gap between rehabilitation and performance training.  More about Bailey here.

Bailey

February 25, 2015

So you’ve gone and hurt yourself, huh?  You’re a gung-ho weekend warrior with a twinge in your back and aren’t sure what to do about it.  This isn’t unusual.

We get all kinds of people coming through our doors who’ve injured themselves in brilliant and creative ways.

As I sit here compiling this literary masterpiece, a client walks in with back spasms that are causing him visible discomfort.  “How’d that happen?” I say.  “I was choking on some long grain rice and coughed so violently that I threw my back out” he replies.  Believe me when I say we’ve seen and heard it all.  You may find yourself asking “What kind of treatment am I supposed to get?”  With all the various types of sprains and strains you may be unlucky enough to receive, where to start can be an overwhelming decision.   Here are a few things to consider:

“Yer aff yer heid!”

1.What is your level of pain?

If you’ve got a full-scale broken back, you’re going to want the emergency room and not deep tissue massage.  An honest evaluation of the pain you are in/damage you have done is important at this stage.  Open wound?  Hospital.  Arm dangling at a weird angle where you KNOW there isn’t a joint?  Hospital.  Tightness in the lower back after trying the caber toss for the first time?  Whole Therapy!  While our therapists are often told that they have magic hands, they cannot perform lifesaving surgeries or repair broken bones.  We’ve had people come in to see us that could barely move let alone stand being touched or physically manipulated in any way.  Not being a hero at this point and seeking medical attention is best.  On the reverse side of the coin, going and waiting in an ER for 10 hours only to have a Dr. tell you to see a physiotherapist isn’t a lot of fun either.

It can be tricky sometimes to gauge the type of potential damage that may have been done after you landed on your back in the middle of the Rideau Canal whilst distracted by that delicious Beaver Tail in your hands. We get that.  While it’s always best to err on the side of caution, be realistic.  The hospital staff won’t thank you either for taking up their time with a minor scrape or the proverbial bobo.

Now that you’ve determined you don’t require immediate medical attention, you’re looking for some pain relief, rehabilitation, and a plan of action for your recovery.  The next step is to..

2. Consider the type of injury.

Chances are, if you’ve rolled your ankle you’re going to want a more rehabilitative and active treatment; most likely a visit with our physiotherapist, or our chiropractors.  If you feel the situation is more muscle or tissue related, you could also consider our team of massage therapists.

One of the great things about our multi-disciplinary approach is how perfectly our services complement each other.  We often have clients come in for “the double”.  This usually consists of a massage treatment to soften you up followed by a chiropractic adjustment to straighten you out!   We also double up on the physio and acupuncture fairly often.  Perhaps the most effective combination of all though, is the combination of our minds.  Each practitioner here will view things in a slightly different way as their training and expertise dictates.  It’s common practice amongst them to pick each other’s’ brains for answers to tricky questions involving your rehabilitation.  It’s this collaboration upon which the Whole Therapy philosophy is based.

3. What can I afford?

Another thing to consider when booking an appointment is your insurance coverage.  Many of you will have private insurance that allows for some spending on different types of clinical services.  Maybe you’ve got coverage for physiotherapy but not chiropractic.  Perhaps it’s the other way around.  Perhaps you’ve only got coverage for one type of service or perhaps you’ve got everything under the sun covered.  It’s worth finding out before you call in so that we can better serve your budget AND your needs.  That being said, sometimes your maintenance program will continue after your benefits have expired.  Don’t worry.  We want to see you as little as possible but as much as necessary.  That means finding out together what a maintenance plan looks like for you.  The initial treatment and following few appointments will likely be closer together, but as you progress from injured to pain-free to functional, the frequency with which you attend will likely decrease. Benefits are wonderful in that they can mitigate the cost of rehab, but they should not dictate the extent of your rehab.  Consider this.

So don’t worry.  Hurting yourself happens, whether it be from coughing up rice, tossing around cabers, or falling while skating.  We’ve seen it all, remember?

Hopefully this information helps you figure out where to start.  If you’re still stumped, give me a call. We can figure out together how to get the ball rolling.

Pat Moore is the office manager at Whole Therapy.  Pat works alongside a team of dedicated professionals and is here to help ensure that your visit at Whole Therapy is as pleasant as possible.  For more about Pat, click here!

Pat

February 18, 2015

Cheese Clip Art  Anyone who knows me knows I like inserting my quirky attitude into educational sessions.      Here are some of my favourite cheesy phrases.

  1. Motion is lotion. Correct, AND it rhymes! Many joint surfaces depend on movement for nutrition. Your articular cartilage, discs and menisci get nourishment indirectly by the movement of synovial fluid. They key word being MOVEMENT. If things remain stagnant, you’re depriving your joints of the much needed nourishment they need to heal and stay nice and lubricated. “But it hurts when I bend and straighten my knee.” Well, you may be setting yourself up for a much nastier condition in the future. Movement also controls for inflammation by re-distributing fluid throughout the joint surface, it keeps your muscles activating like they should and maintains your available ROM. These are all good things for a speedy recovery!

2. End-range is everything. So anyone who has seen me in action knows I am an end-range queen! End-range, end-range, end-range. The magic happens at end-range. This is because many powerful, neurophysiological effects occur at end-range. Receptors in our tissues, known as mechanoreceptors, are activated with end-range stimulation. This stimulates larger nerve fibers which consequently inhibit smaller nerve fibers (a.k.a. as YOUR pain fibers). End-range stimulation literally decreases pain and muscle spasm. Some say it hits the re-start button on the nervous system! Don’t believe me? Many of the bigger physiotherapy treatment techniques depend on end-range. This includes McKenzie, Mulligan and even Active Release Technique. End-range is so powerful that a rapid responder can get immediate relief from pain using an end-range protocol. Yep, like magic.

3. My rule of thumb… I get a lot of questions as to when someone should start an activity again. It’s a hard question a lot of the time (It also doesn’t help that people are generally excited to get back to whatever activity they have restricted, haha). My rule of thumb is that if you are sore upwards of 2 hours after an activity, you did TOO much. An inflammatory response was initiated telling me the activity was too provocative. Now your tissues are mad again. However, if you are sore for a few minutes following an activity with quick symptom resolution, chances are you didn’t cause harm or initiate another inflammatory response. You’re probably in the clear! This also goes for the home exercise program as well (for all those keeners out there doing double or triple the amount they should be!). More is not necessarily “more”, so to speak. You wouldn’t do bicep curls 5x a day, would you?!

Bailey Gresham is a registered physiotherapist for Whole Therapy. She specializes in manual therapy and movement-based therapy. She likes bridging the gap between rehabilitation and performance training.  More about Bailey here.

Bailey

 

February 12, 2015

danger ice

Anyone who knows me knows I am a big believer in staying up-to-date on the most current literature and eating icing on cake. It’s important to know when the scientific community supports the crazy things we get our clients to do in clinic. I think it is also important to stay on top of controversial topics. So prepare yourself for the controversial topic of… ICING!

RICE (Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation) has been perpetuated as the gold standard for acute injury management. You would have a difficult time finding someone who hasn’t used RICE in the management of some sort of ache or pain at some point in their life. It has been proposed that RICE will help limit the amount of inflammation in an area, allowing you to return to normal faster. Is this actually the case though?

Here are 3 beliefs you may want to reconsider when it comes to the application of icing. This information is solely meant o make you think critically on why we do what we have always done.

  1. Swelling is really bad and can prevent a speedy recovery. When we first injure a tissue, there is an initial vasodilation (opening of the blood vessels) to allow blood and white blood cells to enter the area. Their job is to help begin the initial cleanup of the area. So, the easiest way for the white blood cells to get to the injured tissue is through the swelling! Swelling also increases our sensitivity to pain, reduces movement and progresses the inflammatory response. This is all in an effort to keep us from further injuring ourselves.  How can the body come up with an appropriate plan of care if we continue to subject the injured tissue to forces it isn’t ready to handle?! We have evolved to swell. Maybe our evolution regarding swelling isn’t necessarily wrong?
  2. Ice will prevent excessive swelling. Well, maybe not. What if I told you that icing may actually increase fluid in the affected area? It has even been hypothesized that icing an injury may restrict lymphatic flow and promote fluid build-up. The natural swelling process isn’t bad, but excessive swelling is! Our lymphatic system is responsible for getting rid of the excess fluid in the area. Long periods of icing may increase permeability in our lymphatic system. This means fluid has an easier time leaking out of the vessels into the injured area! This makes clean-up nice and sluggish. Icing also has been shown to temporarily reduce skeletal muscle activity. We need the squeezing of our muscles to assist the lymphatic system in pumping out excessive fluid.
  3. Icing improves the body’s capability of healing itself. A pilot study by Takagi et al 2011 wanted to see how icing affected injured skeletal muscle in rats (obviously we can’t just start hurting humans for the sake of science!). A specific muscle group of the rats was crushed using forceps. The rats were then divided into 2 groups: one group iced the muscle group and the other group did not. The rats were then sacrificed (muffle tears) and their muscles were investigated. The icing group had significantly less regeneration of healthy muscle tissue. The regenerated tissue also had abnormal collagen formation, making it overall weaker compared to normal collagen. There were also fewer cells in the area, known as macrophages, cleaning up the injured and necrotic tissue.

I know this is controversial. I am only suggesting that one consider some of the newer theories out there surrounding the efficacy of icing. When it doubt, go talk to your health care professional!

Here is the link to the original article by Bahram Jam, PT: http://aptei.com/articles/pdf/Ice-NSAIDs-Paper.pdf

Bailey Gresham is a registered physiotherapist for Whole Therapy. She specializes in manual therapy and movement-based therapy. She likes bridging the gap between rehabilitation and performance training.  More about Bailey here.

Bailey

 

January 28, 2015

So you went over on your ankle. Now, a black and blue softball currently resides where your ankle used to live. It’s painful, swollen, hot and difficult to walk on. When is this going to get better?!

This is probably the most frequently asked question I get as a physiotherapist. Generally speaking, a moderate sprain/strain can take upwards of 8+ weeks to resolve. HOLY CRAP! 8 WEEKS?! Yes, 8 weeks, give or take. I cannot expedite the body’s ability to heal tissue (I wish I could just place my hands on someone and heal them, I would make a lot of money!). I can merely help create an environment in your tissues conducive to healing. So if you have a swollen, black and blue body part, chances are it’s going to take 8+ weeks to heal itself (And compared to the 20 odd years it took you to become an adult, 8 weeks is pretty fantastic!). Understanding what happens during these 8 weeks, however, can really help prevent re-injury and decrease your risk of things becoming chronic.  

1. Inflammatory phase (3-5 days)

There is not much we can do during this initial phase short of resting, elevating and compressing the affected area. Trauma to your tissues (also known as collagen) cause bleeding. Fluid and other cells (your body’s knights in shining armor) travel to the area to help assess the damage that has been done. The pressure from the fluid, in addition to the chemical soup now residing in the injured area, stimulates nerve endings causing more pain.

Pain limits function. And from an evolutionary standpoint this makes sense. The brain needs to assess the area to figure out what it needs to do to heal itself. It doesn’t want you walking on that sprained ankle, you might hurt it some more! So get those crutches ready and take it easy for those 3-5 days, you have my permission!

2. Repair Phase (3-21 days)

Remember those knights and shining armor I talked about in the inflammatory phase? Well these cells initiate a chemical response which causes blood clotting to stop the bleeding. Fibroblasts also make their presence known in this blood clot. Fibroblasts are cells in your body which essentially act like little carpenters. They come in and help build new tissue. Unfortunately in this stage, Type 3 collagen is laid down. This type of collagen is very weak and has little tensile strength. Its goal is to essentially help plug up the injury!

It’s important to recognize that this new tissue is really weak. Your injury may start feeling a lot better in the next 2-3 weeks. It doesn’t take much to tear this new tissue. Tearing this plug will only bring you back to the inflammatory phase, starting the 8 week process all over again! Re-tearing the tissue over and over again can cause disrepair, which can leave you with an ugly chronic issue.

3. Re-modeling phase (21+ days)

This phase can last up to a year if the injury was severe enough. In this phase, the weak Type 3 collagen is replaced by much stronger Type 1 collagen. Type 1 collage has a lot more tensile strength and makes the tissue more resilient. Type 1 collagen is still not as strong as the surrounding tissue, however, due to its plug-like nature. Most of our tissues are composed of parallel fibers which oppose the forces we put through them. The new tissue is literally a shredded-wheat of fibers, all criss-crossed in a haphazard formation.

In this phase, we can start aligning the fibers in the optimal parallel formation using controlled stretching and strengthening. We also need to work on other important things, but I can’t give it all away in one post! Haha!

Source: http://www.physioroom.com/injuries/supplements/ligaments2.php

Bailey Gresham is a registered physiotherapist for Whole Therapy. She specializes in manual therapy and movement-based therapy. She likes bridging the gap between rehabilitation and performance training.  More about Bailey here.

Bailey