3 Healing Stages of Soft Tissue Injury

By April 4, 2015 No Comments

Injury Example: Hyper Extension or Hyper Flexion Injury (Strain/Sprain/Whiplash)


Stage 1)  24-72 hours after injury:  Acute Inflammatory Phase

Acute Inflammation is characterized by pain, swelling, and redness that happens at the site that is damaged.

Common Treatment: 

  • NSAIDS are commonly used.  The most common NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen – probably because they are available over-the-counter (OTC, no prescription required).

They are medications with analgesic (pain reducing), antipyretic (fever reducing) effects. In higher doses they also have anti-inflammatory effects – they reduce inflammation (swelling).

  • Acupuncture is incredibly helpful in Acute stages of injury.  Specialized acupuncture points for pain, reducing inflammatory response, reducing swelling and pain are commonly used.
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage, Effleurage, and Gentle Range of Motion Movements by a Massage Therapist can be highly beneficial.  Scar tissue also starts to form at this stage of healing, and Massage Therapy is beneficial in helping the body align scar tissue fibers in a more organized manner.
  • The RICE Method is commonly recommended treatment:

Rest: A splint or taping will keep the joint in a safe position, helping you avoid more strain to the sore area.
Ice: Applying cold in the form of ice towels, or cold packs can help slow the inflammatory process and ease pain. Apply the cold for no longer than 10 minutes at a time.
Compression: An elastic tensor bandage or an air-type brace can compress the sore area, keeping the swelling to a minimum.
Elevation: Keep the affected joint elevated above the level of your heart for 20 minutes to half an hour at a time. This will help drain the extra fluid back into the lymph system.

Stage 2)  72 hrs to 12-14 weeks after Injury:  Repair Phase

Common Treatment: 

Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, Manipulative Therapy, Chiropractic Adjustments, Physical Therapy – No more NSAIDS.

Due to the findings of an Australian Study that shows that the use of NSAIDS past the acute inflammatory phase interferes with the healing process.  During the phase, you must put the tissue through motion, stretching, and that includes the ligaments, stretch is primordial in maintaining  range of motion.

Stage 3)  12-14 weeks to up to 24 months: Tissue is being remodeled.

Acupuncture, Chiropractic Spinal Adjustments, Massage Therapy, and Physical Therapy are all safe and helpful during stage 2 and stage 3 when applied with reasonable degree of care, caution and expertise.

Shannon Freeman

Author Shannon Freeman

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