One of the first questions on the mind of any injured athlete who is prescribed to a physical therapist is always, “How long until I’m healthy again?”
The honest answer generally lies somewhere between the specific nature of your injury and your own dedication to maximizing the results of your physical therapy sessions. The harsh reality is that the more severe an injury is, the longer your rehabilitation period is likely to be. The fortunate reality is that if you are willing to approach your physical therapy with a professional attitude, you can both maximize the impact of the treatment while minimizing the timeline of the physical therapy as well. Following along with this, the first step taken towards determining the length of your timeline will always be a thorough diagnosis of the specific nature of your injury.
As a general rule of thumb, any injury which required surgical intervention prior to therapy will have a longer recovery timeline associated with it than one which did not require surgery.
Based on this diagnosis your physical therapist will build a recovery plan geared towards maximizing tissue recovery, ultimately determining the overall length of your therapy as well as the frequency of your sessions from week-to-week. This is where your own actions begin to play a pivotal role in your recovery. It’s absolutely imperative that you not only focus and maintain proper form during your in-person sessions, but that you maintain this dedication in regards to any exercises or activities your physical therapist assigns for you to do at home. It’s also very important that you maintain an open line of communication regarding what your body is saying to you – never leave your therapist in the dark.
It’s almost inevitable that there will be some level of pain involved in your recovery through physical therapy. You must be willing to work through this pain barrier. Although, as an athlete, you should be used to the type of pain your body experiences as your tissue adapts to the new stressors placed upon your body.
Aside from the emphasis you must place on executing your assigned exercises properly, there are several other factors which you an control in your daily life that can either accelerate or impede the progress of your physical therapy. The big four that apply to all patients are diet, posture, sleep, and whether or not the patient is a smoker or not.
Diet plays an enormous role in recovery as it supplies the nutritional building blocks which your body needs in order to effectively repair and rejuvenate damaged tissue.
Sleep works hand in hand with diet when it comes to recovery. A fantastic diet will only have so much impact if you have an irregular sleep pattern, or just aren’t sleeping enough each night. Sleep is when your body is most able to take those nutritional building building blocks and begin applying to the healing process.
Maintaining proper posture throughout your daily life can have a massive impact on the progress of your therapy as well as your ability to avoid recurring injury in the future. Poor posture can result from many types of injury as your body recruits structures which would not normally be used in order to compensate for the injury. Failure to correct these mechanical issues in your day-to-day life can severely hinder your progress.
As we’ve discussed on this blog in the past, smoking has a negative impact when it comes to the ability of your body to regenerate and repair tissue. Smoking makes it harder for your blood to carry oxygen and vital nutrients to various areas of your body, directly impeding recovery.
In short, follow the directions of your therapist both in and out of therapy, eat a balanced and clean diet, sleep regularly for 8-9+ hours a night, work on your posture every minute of the day (as recommended by your physical therapist), and avoid tobacco products.