acute inflammatory

We often ask ourselves “what, when and why” at the point of acquiring a fresh injury. We may also ask, ‘who can I trust’ or “where can I go”. By summarising the healing process, hopefully, you can gain some insight into how you can fix your injury…

There are 3 phases of healing with a soft tissue injury. The first being the acute inflammatory phase, the second is the sub-acute phase or also known as the repair phase, and finally the third is the remodeling phase. It’s important to understand what therapy is required and when a person should consult a specialist after experiencing a soft tissue injury. Initially, the safest option is to seek advice from your local GP or a specialist before self-diagnosing by searching ferociously on Google for answers!

Phase: 1

Description: Acute inflammatory phase

Duration: 24-72 hours post injury

Symptoms: Pain, weakness, swelling, and redness at the site of injury

Recommended approach:

  • Paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are commonly used initially to reduce initial pain and suffering. These can be bought over the counter without a prescription.
  • Acupuncture therapy is highly beneficial during the acute phase of an injury as it highlights pain areas, increases the rate of healing and reduces swelling.
  • Manual lymphatic drainage massage aids recovery with gentle effleurage and small joint movements.
  • Protection and rest; stabilising the joint by a means of a mechanical aid, strapping, taping or a splint.
  • Ice is not advised as it can decrease the rate of inflammation, which effectively slows the rate of the acute recovery response – therefore only apply to assist with pain relief for short spells only.
  • Compression bandages or socks are useful to compress the injured site to minimise swelling, but not recommended whilst resting or for long periods of time.
  • Elevation of the injured limb should be done from 30 to 60 minutes at a time, by maintaining the limb above the level of the heart.

Phase: 2

Description: Repair Phase

Duration: 72 hours to 12/14 weeks post injury

Symptoms: Bruising and discoloration may start to appear

Recommended approach:

  • Acupuncture, massage therapy, osteopathic adjustments, and physical therapy are very useful at this stage. Scar tissue and adhesions start to develop during this phase, therefore massage therapy is beneficial in helping re-align and re-organise the tissues from the scarring.
  • It’s important to stop taking NSAIDS as they can hinder the recovery process of the damaged tissues.
  • It’s useful to mobilise and stretch the injured joint whilst keeping within the pain boundaries, which will help to rehabilitate the joint.

Phase: 3

Description: Remodelling phase

Duration: 14+ weeks

Symptoms: Atrophy, dull pain, stiffness, weakness

Recommended approach:

  • Acupuncture, chiropractic or osteopathic spinal adjustments, massage therapy, and physical therapy are all safe and helpful during the second and third phases of healing when applied with reasonable degree of attentiveness, caution and proficiency.
  • Ensuring the injury won’t reoccur, it is important to follow a treatment programme in the latter stages of healing. This last step is often overlooked, as people often feel rehabilitated during the second phase. As a result, people would complain of joint weakness, early fatigue, cramping, atrophy, dull pain and so on.