Importance of Rehabbing Chronic Injuries.
STEPHEN M. SWARINGEN, DC
Acute injuries are described as new or recent damage to tissue (for example bone, muscle, nerve, connective tissue, organ) most commonly caused by trauma. On the other hand, chronic pain is related to injuries that are older, and have already gone through the healing process. These types of injuries cause persistent pain and discomfort, often exacerbated by overuse and compensation.
Immediate management of an acute injury is extremely important, and treatment should be started within the first 24 hours. Acute injury care is focused on the three phases of healing: The Inflammatory Phase, The Rebuilding Phase, and The Remodeling Phase.
Chronic injuries tend to come and go, so our focus is maintaining a patient’s current abilities such as range of motion and strength. This is because the body has already reached its perceived maximum improvement.
Most patients want one thing above all else: to be out of pain. In order to improve pain, the health care provider must focus on improving the overall function of the injured tissue. When beginning treatment immediately after the acute injury, we are usually able to achieve complete resolution with minimal continuing symptoms. However, when treating chronic injured tissues, we find the window for improvement in one treatment plan to be smaller. This is because the body has already adapted with muscle and mechanical compensation.
So how do we begin to fix chronic pain and injuries? We do this by incorporating mobility (static and dynamic stretches), stability (isometrics, eccentric loading, neuro re-education), and strength (resistance, impact, force production), targeting the injured tissues. We find that by using these techniques, we are able to stimulate the tissue to revert to the healing phase, thus improving tissue health, biomechanics, and most importantly pain when we incorporate weekly rehab (3-4 days a week).
These rehab routines only require 10-20 minutes per day of specific programming to allow the tissue to actively remain in the healing phase. By teaching our patients how to rehab their chronic injuries, we empower them to take an active role in their injury management resulting in improved quality of life, and most importantly less pain.
So next time you are faced with the decision of what to do next? Injections? Pain medication? Just wait until it goes away? Remember that there is another option. Learn how to master your body and optimize your health!