Get Moving Again after Muscle Injuries

December 13, 2013 in STSMPT

When you’re recovering from a muscle injury, rest or restricted movement have an important part to play in healing. Immediately after injury, even slight use of the injured muscle results in a larger scar and the obstruction of muscle fibers that need to penetrate the scar tissue during the repair phase. (1) Protection from movement allows new granulation tissue opportunity to develop tensile strength. (2)

However, there can be too much of a good thing. Rest, ice, elevation, and compression begin recovery; they don’t end it. Prolonged rest or immobilization causes a number of undesirable effects, such as muscle atrophy and stalled recovery. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

It’s possible to mobilize and get moving again as early as three days post injury. Waiting longer than ten days to begin the more active stage of recovery is counterproductive. (3) Timely mobilization has been shown to:

* enhance the penetration of muscle fibers through the connective tissue scar,

* limit the size of the permanent scar,

* encourage more rapid and intensive capillary growth into the injured area

* facilitate the proper alignment of muscle fibers,

* improve the tensile strength of the injured muscle, and

* facilitate faster strength recovery (3,4)

For serious injuries or injuries you want fully recovered quickly, physical therapy can put you on the right course. Immediate treatment may include gentle mobilization, help with protection, and modalities. Treatment after three to five days may start with active, pain-free movements in the injured area, elevation to continue to bring down the swelling, and targeted exercises of surrounding areas, to eliminate congestion around the injury.

The extent of the injury, your pain level, and swelling level will determine when we can safely begin active strengthening to your damaged tissue.

Specific modalities may be used at any time and throughout to help with swelling, pain, and support healing tissues.

1. Hurme T, Kalimo H, Lehto M, et al. Healing of skeletal muscle injury: an ultrastructural and immunohistochemical study. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991; 23: 801-810.
2. Kalimo H, Rantanen J, Jarvinen M. Muscle injuries in sports. Baillieres Clin Orthop. 1997; 2: 1-24.
3. Jarvinen M. Healing of a crush injury in rat striated muscle, 2: a histological study of the effect of early mobilization and immobilization on the repair processes. Acta Pathol Microbiol Scand. 1975; 83A: 269-282. 4. Jarvinen M. Healing of a crush injury in rat striated muscle, 4: effect of early mobilization and immobilization on the tensile properties of gastrocnemius muscle. Acta Chir Scan. 1976; 142: 47-56.

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