During an injury, physical trauma disrupts the balance of normal cellular function and triggers the beginning of complex physiological repair processes.
Lots of times, injuries can repair to normal or almost normal function. In others, the injury may result in impaired function of the damaged tissue, or on occasion, can cause chronic pain. Sometimes injuries heal very quickly, and others can seem slow at times.
So, knowing what’s happening on a cellular level and the part the immune system has to play should give you an insight into the healing processes that your body goes through. This will hopefully prepare you for faster, safer and more effective recovery from injury. It is also important to remain positive and remember that the body has an innate capacity to heal, and with proper treatment and advice, your injury should heal very well!
The process of healing begins almost immediately after an injury and proceeds in a relatively organised fashion. It follows three phases that often overlap:
The Inflammation Phase
The Proliferation Phase
The Re-modelling Phase
Phase 1 – Initial Inflammation
During the first phase, the body initiates the healing process almost immediately after your injury, and so begins the acute inflammatory and painful phase.
This inflammatory period can last several days.
During this time, white blood cells are attracted to the area through chemical signals, such as leukotrienes. Fluid from blood vessels leaks into the surrounding tissue and triggers the characteristic signs of acute inflammation and injury: redness, swelling, and warmth.
Phase 2 – Proliferation
This second phase begins as the inflammation settles down and your immune system begins to repair the damaged tissue by laying down collagen.
This can begin from day 4 up to about 4-6 weeks.
New collagen fibres are put down in a disorganised fashion in the form of scar tissue, which is weaker and less flexible than the normal area tissues.
In this phase, you will probably have less pain.
But there is a high risk of re-injury as the tissue used during the repair phase is not as strong as it was originally before the injury,
This is often the phase when you start to feel better and return to regular activities too soon, only to experience a setback in your progress.
Phase 3 – Remodelling
As healing progresses, the tissues improve in quality, organisation and strength.
The remodelling phase focuses on increasing the collagen fibres’ cellular organisation and the strength between the collagen bonds.
There is also a risk of re-injury during this phase.
Patients should gradually increase the load on tissues by utilising rehabilitation exercises to stimulate growth and improve overall function.
Pain can come and go during this page, depending on levels of inflammation and reinjury.
This phase may take several weeks, months or on occasion, some years
At the end of this phase, a patient would aim to return to full normal daily activities.
How Does Osteopathy Assist The Healing Process?
Osteopathic treatment focuses on accurate diagnosis and hands-on osteopathic treatment to help alleviate pain during the initial phases of injury.
Identifying predisposing and maintaining factors and the barriers to healing which may include; poor posture, stress, lack of sleep, poor breathing mechanics, and others.
Compile a tailor-made comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the injury and any potential barriers to healing.
Osteopathy focuses on addressing underlying muscle and tissue imbalances. Improve joint and muscle mobility and alignment across the whole body.
Continued help with pain management via osteopathic treatment.
Providing advice on rehabilitation exercises to help improve overall mobility and strength.
Encourage a gradual return to sports and activities.
During this phase, osteopathy focuses on regaining full range of motion, improving strength through tailor-made rehabilitation programmes, and further increasing loading on the tissues.
Provide advice on preventing further injury and how to enhance overall performance.
At the end of this phase, your Osteopath would expect a patient to return to full normal daily activities.
Lorraine Herity is the Clinic Director of Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch, New Zealand. She previously worked in Osteopathic clinics in London and Ireland, before moving to New Zealand. Lorraine trained at the British School of Osteopathy in London, where she gained her Master of Osteopathy (M.Ost). Lorraine is a dedicated and passionate Osteopath. Her main aim is to help her patients regain their health, and to return her patients back to their everyday activities, in as quick a time as possible.