We all want the quick fix. Is that pills, injections, surgery, or is it really physical therapy?
People do not want to be in pain. This is understandable however our bodies use pain as a signal to let us know there is an injury or something wrong. We often try to mask this signal or turn it off completely using medication or surgery. This way we can return to our normal busy lives as soon as possible. Why? Money, schedules, and other people who rely on us. However, if we learn to acknowledge the pain and go through the process to allow our bodies to heal, we will often come out on the other side stronger than before. It is important to stop and take care of ourselves before problems escalate. This is of course if we do not have a traumatic situation like a compound fracture puncturing the skin, lack of sensation or use of a leg from a disc herniation requiring surgery, or other emergent situations which require immediate medical attention.
What do I mean by this?
The healing process in general for muscles to recover can take 14 days to 4-5 weeks and another 6-8 weeks after that for strengthening. For example, a person who has a Total Knee Replacement (aka “TKA”) will need 4 -5 weeks usually for the muscles and skin at the surgical site to fully close and heal. After that the person will require another 6-8 weeks of strengthening for their knee to perform activities of daily living, recreation, and hobbies that person might enjoy. *This is in regards to an average muscle tear or surgical procedure and not a complete muscle tear or extensive surgical reconstruction in which times may vary.
Most people do not know that ligaments take longer to heal than muscles. For example, someone who tears their “Medial Gastroc” muscle in their calf should feel better in 6-8 weeks. However, if you tear slightly lower than this muscle on the calf called your “Achilles Tendon” it will take 14-16 wks to recover. This is due to the lack of blood flow in the tendon. Tendons also require a certain time frame to fully heal and regain what is called tensile strength before putting too much pressure on them. The research shows at the 8-10 week most tendons are only 80% of their fully tensile strength. This means most people have a higher chance of retearing the tendon due to the muscle feeling better and being fully recovered and the person feeling back to normal, even though the ligament is not as strong. Since tendons have less blood flow this also means having less nerve response in that area to signal injury while the tendon is healing. Whereas muscles have lots of blood flow and lots of nerve response due to the way the anatomy is. Once people pass the 10 week mark with ligament healing, they are usually about 90-95% in tensile strength and have less of a chance of reinjurying their Achilles Tendon. *This situation is also in regards to a tear that is not considered a complete tendon tear or medical emergency requiring surgery although Achilles Tendon Ruptures can be repaired with or without surgery depending on the situation.
When patients come to therapy and hear that they need 2-3 times a week for weeks or even months of therapy they can often feel like there is a quicker fix then going through the process. However, due to your body’s ability to heal, the timeframe it requires, the muscles learning movements called body mechanics, and the process to build strength; it is often a better option to go through the treatment then try other pain management solutions.
Options like medication can lead to addictions, lengthy time frames for being effective as well as being weaned off the medication, side effects, and unwanted complications can lead to a decrease in general health. Medication may also not fix the problem and lead to months and even years of struggling with the main issue of pain or lack of function.
Injections can be a healthy alternative to experience constant pain however most research advises coupling injections for pain control with physical therapy. This can be done to regain range of motion (as in cases with Adhesive Capsulitis) or to regain strengthening (as in cases with Hip Impingement, Back Pain, Cervical Pain or Tears). Research also shows that it is not beneficial to get more than 3 injections of a steroid in the same body part as this can lead to degeneration in the joint. Degeneration will usually lead to a surgical procedure being required or joint replacements. In some cases, receiving an injection can prolong the ability to receive surgery if desired. For instance, if a patient goes to physical therapy prior to a TKA in order to build more strength before surgery, and they receive an injection, they will then require 3 months of waiting before surgery can take place. When someone receives steroid injections there is usually a timeframe that needs to happen before a surgical procedure can happen to that body part. *Be sure to discuss any time frame requirements with your specific surgeon as specialists requirements can be different.
The QUICK FIX to improve function, increase strength, and yes reduce pain is allowing your body to go through the process in physical therapy. Our bodies do require time to complete the process of healing. The process of healing can differ based on age, healing ability, sleep patterns, comorbidities, nutrition, and our own health habits. However, we often require help in getting our bodies to heal without compensations like using other muscles, leaning to one side, or changing how we perform an activity.
At 1st Classen Physical Therapy, we believe in going through the process to be healthier and give you all the information so you can make an educated decision. We also utilize hands-on manual skills and techniques to help your muscles, ligaments and joints recover with as little scarring and fibrous tissue as possible. We combat compensations by mobilizing your joints, stretching muscle properly, fascial releases, going through correct body mechanics, and patterns to use your muscles correctly. We focus on function, and holistic patterns to recover natural posture, gait/balance abilities, proper lifting forms, uniformity in playing sports and more. By doing these techniques, we allow for better muscle function, increased range of motion, and improved skin sensation.
We are here to help and want you to feel supported. Call us today for an appointment.