Four recovery stages of a soft tissue injury

Sport is a great way to have fun, keep fit and stay active, but what do you do when physical activity causes an ache or pain?

To prevent further injury, or to get you back to your normal activity level, Friendlies Physiotherapy Service head physiotherapist Matt Churchill said a staged rehabilitation was needed.

“They are the damage limitation phase, retraining phase, restoration of normal movement and then sport specific retraining,” Mr Churchill said.

Damage limitation phase

This starts immediately following trauma/injury and how long this lasts depends on the severity of the injury. Part of this phase is protecting the injured structure so that further damage does not occur. This may require splinting, taping or bracing the area.

The use of the RICER principle (Rest, Compression, Elevation and Referral) is vital in the early stages with emphasis on compression.

Begin the process of retraining normal strength, flexibility and control

This involves the introduction of increasing loads/demands on the tissue after suitable time for tissue recovery has been allowed. It is important not to overload in this phase and cause delayed healing or re injury. Strengthening, stretching, massage, RICER as well as other forms of clinic based treatment will be utilised in this phase.

Regain normal biomechanics and strength

Continuation of loading of tissues to full strength/stretching loads. Loading through this phase will begin to mimic normal daily and sporting loads.
You should have normal tissue strength at the end of this stage in preparation for the final stage.

Sport Specific retraining

This stage is vital to ensure you have suitable “dynamic joint stability” through appropriate activation of muscle to prevent recurrence or new injuries. Your physiotherapist will recommend the best kind of exercises to achieve this.

This advice is general in nature. It is best to speak to a trained physiotherapist and seek specific advice. Source: Sports Medicine Australia

If you have suffered a sports injury, the Friendlies Physiotherapy Service have a walk-in Sports Injury Clinic every Monday from 8.30am – 9.30am, with quick 15-minute appointments to assess, treat and make recommendations. Find out more here.

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