How Long Will it Take For My Injury to Heal?
The short answer: we don’t have an exact time frame. We can give patients a predicted healing time based on our research and experience, but every injury and body is going to heal differently and at varying rates.
One factor we are confident in as a major key in injury rehabilitation is time. As frustrating as it is for patients to hear “time is the ultimate healer,” this is the truth. We never will be the doctors who aren't clear or transparent with you.
The healing process is not linear and everyone will progress at differing rates throughout their time in physical therapy, but as a general rule of thumb, time is the ultimate healer for injuries. Read on for the long answer as to how much time it will take for your injury to heal.
How long do different injuries take to heal?
Most clinicians will tell you that 6-12 weeks is the time frame it takes for injury to heal. This is a textbook answer based on the 3 phases of tissue healing (inflammatory, proliferation, and remodeling). But what if your injury is not an “issue with the tissue”, but rather based on stress, psychological factors, or overuse? Injury recovery is incredibly multifactorial; thus, recovery times can vary greatly from this 6-12 week estimate.
One of the biggest factors (aside from time) in healing injuries is blood flow. This is why we always encourage patients to keep moving if their injury allows it! In general, strains, sprains, and muscular injuries will take the least amount of time to heal, while bone, tendon and cartilage injuries tend to take longer. For example, a full ACL tear (ligament) will typically take longer to heal than a calf strain (muscle). This timeframe is largely related to the amount of blood flow these structures receive. Muscles receive immense amounts of blood flow (think: the heart is a muscle), while tendons and ligaments receive less blood, and cartilage receives the least.
Many of the patients we see at Made 2 Move are highly active individuals, which we love! But due to their high level of activity, sometimes injury follows as a result of under eating, under recovering, or overuse. Patients that come in with chronic pain or overuse injuries often are frustrated by the healing process because they don’t want to slow down to allow their injuries to heal. This can lengthen their time in PT, worsen their pain, and extend the necessary time for rehabilitation. While pain is complex and sometimes the cause of pain is uncertain, one thing we are sure of is that recovery and rest is vital to healing!
What does the research say?
Recent research has looked into low back pain, as this affects a large majority of the population at some point in their lives. Researchers found that most acute back pain subsides in 6-8 weeks with no treatment.
A 2010 research study by Artus and colleagues studied back cracking as a treatment for low back pain. This study examined back cracking, NSAIDs (advil or ibuprofen), or double placebo (no treatment) and each one’s effect on the low back pain. What did they find? The average recovery time was 2 weeks and 99% of patients recovered by 12 weeks, regardless of the treatment they received. What was the only thing the groups had in common? Allowing time and patience to heal their injury.
Researchers noted in the conclusion of their research that “[low back pain] symptoms seem to improve in a similar pattern in clinical trials following a wide variety of active as well as inactive treatments. It is important to explore factors other than the treatment that might influence symptom improvement” (Artus et. al 2010).
What does this mean? It is evident that treatment modalities done by physical therapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors can help in healing injuries. But the key word here is help. At the end of the day, it’s going to be time and your body’s resiliency that heals your injury. This is evident from the research that showed 99% of those with low back pain saw relief from their pain in 12 weeks, regardless of their treatment intervention.
This is not an excuse to skip physical therapy. Physical therapy is necessary, as it gives you a diagnosis, treatment plan, and direction to go with your physical activity that will promote optimal healing.
But seeing our therapists here at Made 2 Move isn’t going to be what heals your injury. The healing surely is not attributed to manual therapy done by your PT or back cracking done by your chiropractor. These modalities help but are most definitely not the long term solution to your pain. For long term recovery, rest and moderate activity outside of your PT sessions are the key to injury recovery.
How can I use time as the “ultimate healer” for my injury?
“It’s going to take time.” This is a frustrating response for many athletes to hear post injury, when the only thing on their mind is getting back to the gym or their sport. When our PTs at Made 2 Move tell a patient that they’re going to have to take time off from their sport, Crossfit, or marathon training, many patients brush the advice off and want to just “power through.” However, this can just stall the healing process and keep you out of your sport longer. Listen to your PT when he or she tells you to take time off. Movement is medicine, yes, but the type, amount, and intensity of the activity and movement you’re doing may have to be tweaked during different stages of the healing process.
Here at Made 2 Move, we try to equip you with exercises to do and strategies to stay active while your body works hard to heal itself. Our therapists understand that the dry needling, manual therapy, or 1 hour PT session are not what made you better. While we love the work we get to do with our patients, our goal is to move you out of our Made 2 Move clinics, not keep seeing you for months on end with no progress.
At Made 2 Move, our therapists strive to not have patients doing 3 PT sessions a week for 6 months. If you’re in PT that long with zero signs of progress, something obviously isn’t working. Our goal is to get you out of PT and back to your normal activities as quickly as possible. We recognize our treatment modalities are a major part of the healing process, but we also understand that time plays perhaps the greatest role. Interested in PT for your injury? Give us a call at 843-640-5244 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an initial evaluation at any of our 4 Made 2 Move clinics!