When injured the body has an amazing ability to heal itself. Through a series of precise stages the body coordinates it’s cells to repair and regenerate until fully healed.
The initial stage of this healing process in called the inflammatory stage. During this stage the injured site is filled with white blood cells and the site becomes swollen, red and hot. This means it is time to rest.
The inflammation induces pain and the swelling will make it difficult to move the injured site. There is some question surrounding this state.
Do you reduce the inflammation with ice and drugs? Or do you apply heat and let the body heal as quickly as possible? Each are valid and deliver a different outcome.
By reducing the inflammation you can reduce the pain and gain more movement HOWEVER removing the inflammation should also be a decision to stop moving the injured site. Just because the inflammation is gone does not mean that the injury is as well, in-fact this can just lead to injuring the site again before it has time to properly heal. Using heat or simply stopping movement to the area and allowing the body to heal on its own will in return allow the site to fully heal and reduce the risk of re injury is the most ideal, this option however does take time. This initial stage lasts 24-72 hours.
The next stage the called the proliferation stage. This involves the body laying down new tissue and nerve endings in an effort to repair the damage down by the injury. This stage can last 6-8 weeks after the injury.
The last stage is the remodelling phase. During this time the body removes any unnecessary scar tissue or nerve endings and full elasticity and flexibility can eventually be gained. This can last 6-12 months after the injury.
The stages of healing are a long process that the body carries out without too much input from us. We can assist this process by first resting and let our body deal with the injury in the inflammatory stage as well as help support the body during the rest of the time by taking it slow to return to normal activities, seeking the help of health care professionals and eating well to ensure the cells that are regenerating are of good quality.
Gonzalez, A. C., Costa, T. F., Andrade, Z. A., & Medrado, A. R. (2016). Wound healing – A literature review. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia, 91(5), 614–620. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20164741
Blog by Dr Emily Harragon