Why Rehabilitation Matters-From the Accident Site to Full Recovery & Where it Sometimes Goes Wrong

Undergoing injury rehabilitation is a huge ordeal and in many cases can be life-changing. It is amazing to think about how our bodies adapt to recoup to a normal existence. Nonetheless, there are still a large amount of barriers that can curtail a full recovery. Recognising these obstacles and addressing them with quality physiotherapy care can ensure the best outcome occurs.

When trauma occurs, the force of the accident exceeds the resilience of the body’s tissues. Whether it is a graze, bone fracture, ligament sprain or a soft-tissue injury, the body’s alarm system goes into over-drive and begins its repair process. It does this with a message from the brain and a heightened immune response. There is an influx of swelling where our white blood cells tag and take care of the very damaged cells and then begin signaling to regrow the damaged areas. With this, there is constant communication to the brain that in most cases assists but when there is misunderstanding it can actually be a hindrance to recovery.

In the moment of crisis, our brain can control the amount of muscle tone to guard the area, regulation of blood flow and nutrition to injury site, and inhibition with pain just to name a few. Ultimately, its chief aim as the control center is to restore order and calm things back to their original state.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned and return to pre-injury status doesn’t occur. Often the problem isn’t able to repair itself and the body either adapts to find alternative way of functioning or the problem turns itself into a chronic pain state whereby the brain registers the tissues as a supersensitive state beyond the level of their physical level of damage.

As therapists, we can identify the deficits. This is achieved through an accurate diagnosis and then bridging the gaps of the deficits. Sometimes this is obvious, such as bracing an unstable joint until it’s stable and strengthening the muscles around it. Although sometimes it’s less obvious, such as re-training the joint receptors position sense in a recurring ankle sprain, and other times it is a game of Tetris whereby the therapist is placing together the gaps of weakness in the body’s kinetic chain. An example of this is a person who develops back pain after having a knee injury and the problem is then solved by being prescribed with the appropriate strengthening program.

Previously there was a real mystery area of chronic pain where the brain adapts to chronically distressed area of tissue and super sensitizes the injured area. Fortunately, an area of pain science has evolved and we now have a great understanding of managing this problem as well with great outcomes.

So whatever the level of trauma suffered in any form of accident, it is advisable to touch base with your physiotherapist so they can help you identify any obstacles, large or small, that may be preventing you from achieving a full recovery.

Ben Herde is an expert physiotherapist in his field. He consults from Grand Slam Physiotherapy in North Geelong. He is an Australian Physiotherapy Association Sports Physiotherapist who treats all musculoskeletal injuries and he also works part-time on the ATP World Tour with professional tennis players. To make an appointment please call (03) 52772151.