How do injuries heal ?

Posted on 06. Apr, 2011 by in Injuries, Types of Injury

How do injuries heal?

Common injries that we see in the physiotherapy clinic are knee injuries, shoulder injuries, rotator cuff injury, hamstring injury, knee injury and many other sports injuries

The  body responds to an injury in the following way;

It’s response to injury can be divided into four stages:

1. Soft tissue damage

2. Inflammation

3. Soft tissue repair

4. Soft tissue remodelling

This process is essentially the same in tendons, muscles, ligaments and all other soft tissues.

1.Soft Tissue Damage

When any of the body’s soft tissues are place under excessise strain this can lead to tissue damage. (see my previous blog on what are the soft tissues of the body and how are they injured?) When this occurs, the small cells which make up soft tissues and the blood vessels situated in between them can be damaged. When this occurs both the fluid contained within the cells and the blood that is contained in the blood vessels, leaks into the surrounding area. This causes swelling and internal bleeding and sometimes bruising.

2. Inflammation

Your body’s first and immediate response to soft tissue damage is inflammation. Here the body releases certain inflammatory cells, to the area , which help remove damaged or dying tissues cells. During this process you will experience pain, localised heat, swelling and loss of movement. This will limit how much you move the area which in turn protects the damaged tissue from even further injury. The inflammatory process can continue for at least 5 days and at times longer. Inadequate rest can result in re-injury of the tissue which  will inturn extend the inflammatory response. This can delay the start of the repair process.

3.soft tissue repair

Repair of the damaged tissue begins to occur after 3 – 5 days. New collagen cells are laid down and damaged blood vessels and nerve endings sprout back into the area. Physical activity stimulates the new tissue formation. The new tissue formed is called Scar tissue and is different form the original tissue. To encourage good quality repair gentle natural tension via the performance of controlled stretching and strengthening exercises should be applied to the scar tissues at this stage. If the scar tissue isn’t exercised regularly it will shrink and shorthen. This would result  in reduced flexibility and weakness of the soft tissues which would mean that it would be  be less able to cope with normal physical stress. This tissue repair process usually lasts about 3 weeks.

4. soft tissue remodelling

Soft tissue repair is only optimal if remodelling of the healing scar tissue occurs. This involves remodelling the weaker scar tissue into a stronger tissue which is capable of withstanding normal physical activitiy. This involves gradually progressing the force of the exercises, commenced above,  coupled with a gradual return to normal physical activity. This should be continued until the injured area has regained its normal flexibility, strength and overall function. This process can take anywhere from several weeks to several months.

I hope the above has better informed you about how injuries heal .

Related posts:

  1. types of sporting injuries

3 Responses to “How do injuries heal ?”

  1. Anne Africa

    24. May, 2011

    Now I understand why some injuries take so long to get better. Do older people with injuries take longer to heal than younger people?

    Reply to this comment

      24. May, 2011

      Hi Anne

      Yes they do. After the age of 30, your rate of healing starts to slow but what is important is that your body still has the capacity to heal, at any age.

      Thanks for the Question


      Reply to this comment

    14. Aug, 2011

    Hi there. Thank you for your question. Without performing a one on one assessment it is difficult for me to give you a specific answer to your question. But what I generally tell patients is that with a simple rotator cuff injury it can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months to achieve complete relief of pain and a full recovery of shoulder function. I would advise that you see a trained health professional (like a physiotherapist) to guide you in appropriate rehabilitation exercises and appropriate modification of day to day activities. These conditions can be aggravated quick easily so exercise selection and technique is very important. Good Luck.

    Regards Joe Arico

    Reply to this comment

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