Monday, June 6, 2011

Magic: Stages of Healing

72 hours of magic to be exact.

The body is an amazing machine and the re-construction that occurs in the 72 hours following and injury are phenomenal. Here is your athletic therapy lesson for the day...

Phase 1: Acute Phase
This is the initial reaction of body tissue to the injury- typically 48-72hours. The body is working like a dog to protect, localize and rid the body of the thing that is causing harm. Tissue death occurs due to injury, lack of oxygen/disrupted circulation and digestive enzymes spilling over into healthy cells. Yick.

In the first hour: Vasoconstriction occurs to decrease blood flow and limit damage.

In the second hour: Vasodilation brings swelling and an increase in red blood cells as well as those involved with clean up and repair. This 'edema' may actually appear in the first 15 minutes with minor injuries or a few hours later with more severe situations.

'Chemotaxis' (cool word) occurs- attracting a range of chemicals to the injury that will aid in preparation for healing. Lymph flow (heightened immune system response) increases during this time as well.

'Phagocytosis' follows - and your garberator cells (neutrophils & monocytes) gobble up the bacteria and dead cells loitering in the injured area.

Phase 2: Repair Phase
72hrs to 6 weeks. Tissue repair occurs only when the area has become clean and all the cellular debris has been removed. The ability of your body to regenerate tissue is related to nutrition and general health on top of your treatment program. The development of collagen (tissue) is stimulated by vitamin C and oxygen. Circulation to the area is therefor beneficial during this phase.

Phase 3: Remodeling Phase
3 weeks to 2 years post injury. Scar tissue production continues and the fibres can take 3 months to 2 years to gain full strength. Ligaments can take as long as 1 year to remodel. The strength of this new tissue depends on the forces applied during this phase. Force too early or too excessive will extend the healing process.

Different tissues (bone, cartilage, ligaments, skeletal muscle, nerve) have special healing limitations and timelines....but that is the idea.

There are a few key things that you can do to help your 'a-team' while they are working overtime rebuilding you on a cellular level.

Acute phase- we used to say RICE above all (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation), however we are learning that circulation and movement facilitate healing and that things that repress our inflammatory response, can in fact, delay healing.  So yes, Rest, Compress and Elevate initially, to allow your body to get through that initial response.  Ice for pain management if needed during that first day as well.  But then, as pain dictates, get that blood moving as soon as possible.  Circulation is the key to healing as it is our transportation system and delivers the nutrients we need to support healing. You can achieve this through gentle, pain free movement, or moving a different body part or through passive therapies including massage, ultrasound, laser, hot:cold contrasts, acupuncture, sauna etc.

After inflammation has calmed down you can move onto self treatment that increases the circulation to the area: contrast therapy (hot 2mins/cold1min*2-3), gentle massage and light stretching to align the new tissues & fibres.  Whatever you do - don't REST and do nothing, in the days and weeks following an injury.  There are so many things you CAN do!  (see below)  Support your body so that it heals as quickly and most importantly, fully, as it possibly can.

I want you to give up the idea of giving up and focus on your energy on believing in your bodies amazing capacity to recover, adapt and heal. Second, I want you to focus your actions on 2 things: 1) Supporting your body in its healing and 2) Building your fitness in all of the areas that you CAN progress. 

Personally, I have experienced what some would call 'severe injury' multiple times over the past 10 years. Twice I was told by sugeon's that I would never run again. I believe in believing. I focus my energy on the positive outcome that COULD occur. I support my body to facilitate healing, backing off training when it needs recovery, asking and reaceiving support from a team of healing therapists, visualization, staying focused on the outcome I desire (not the fears that want to take over), flipping my perspective to one of gratitude for the health and abilities that I still have and pushing my body in all of the ways that I can, while I am healing the injured area. I will do a full blogpost on this topic in the near future.

I would love for you to do the same! What CAN you do? Work from there:) A good therapeutic team, will guide you as to what activities you should and should not be doing to facilitate healing. There are endless modes and strategies available to support your body- keep seeking, asking and receiving!

Above all, however...never, ever give up on your body!  It has an AMAZING capacity for recovery, adaptation and healing.  Keep supporting it and always be it's number one cheerleader:)

Keep the magic alive,

1 comment:

The Sénéchals said...

Thanks for the great refresher on healing phases - I preach it all the time but not that succinctly!