The Stages Of Healing.
Or - How Long Does It Take To Get Better?
Everyone who has ever had lower back pain, wants it to stop fast! There are many factors that will influence your recovery from injury, which effects how long it will take. The specific body tissue that has been damaged and the severity of the injury are key factors, but also more personal factors such as age, general health, dietary factors, weight, whether you smoke (smokers get better slower), and what you do when first injured.
The bottom line is, everyone gets better at different rates. Most of us can feel improvement within a few days, yet for others it might take several weeks or even months to feel better as you slowly regain the strength and stability that supports your spine well.
Now for the good news! Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal and repair just about any damage that has occurred. If you have ever injured yourself you probably have seen this happen right before your eyes!
For example if you have ever cut your hand or grazed a knee, you will have noticed that it didn’t stay that way. Instead your body eventually healed the damage, usually to the point where you can’t even see where you hurt yourself. If the injury was bad enough, you may have been left with a scar. Either way, your body miraculously fixed itself and didn’t leave you with an open wound that would be prone to infection or further injury. What is even cooler is that it happened without you having to do anything!
Now pay attention to the following, because it is very important. If you understand this, you will never fall for some of the ridiculous claims that others make regarding '7 Day Back Pain Cures' and the like. Nothing can be cured in 7 days, it is physiologically impossible. Be very careful of so called 'Miracle Cures."
Let’s look at the stages of how our body repairs itself from injury.
1. Immediately following any tissue damage the body starts an inflammation process. During the Inflammatory or Acute Stage there is a change in blood flow at the injury and the body releases specific chemicals and specialised cells at the site of injury to start the healing process. Inflammation is characterised by pain, redness, swelling and heat. This acute stage will last for 48-72 hours (2-3 days). Anti-inflammatory medications can ease the pain, but they are designed to interfere with this process and can stop full and proper healing. If you can cope without them, it is advised to refrain from medication. If in doubt always consult a health professional, preferable one that is not being paid or encouraged to promote these products (unfortunately this is a reality, and very hard to identify).
2. New tissue starts to form in the Sub-Acute or Repair Stage. This will typically last for 4-6 weeks as new tissue is gradually being rebuilt by your body to replace the damaged, injured tissue. This scar tissue is mostly comprised of collagen (the building block of soft tissue) and is rarely as strong as the original tissue.
3. For the next 3-6 months the newly formed tissue strengthens and becomes more organised. This Remodelling Stage is perhaps the most important as it is very easy to reinjure yourself if you are not careful with your movements. This can lead to a chronic weakness if the injury does not regain full strength. The remodelling stage is where my rehabilitation program is designed to be the most effective. Although the program will help your recovery in all stages, and is designed to move you progressively through the different phases of healing, we want the new tissue to form correctly and to be as strong as possible. It’s like a totally new you!
4. It can take up to 12 months for the new tissue to complete the Maturation Stage. This is basically fine tuning the functioning of the new tissue to further increase its’ strength and durability. It is important during this long term phase to remain as active as possible as outlined in my rehab program.
If the pain is still persisting for more than 3 months after the original injury, it is then considered a chronic problem. The current opinion on this is that the body has not fully repaired the damage correctly, for whatever reason. At this point it will be more difficult to treat and will require more time and patience on the part of person.
Unfortunately this is the situation for many of us, as we did not get the correct care at the start, or we ignored the problem and hoped it would just ‘go away’. Even if this is the case for you, as it was for me after my water-skiing injury, don’t worry, you will still get better, it will perhaps take a bit longer. You need the determination to keep at it and take action every day.
It is also very important to understand that the pain is not the problem! Many people think that when the pain goes they are all better and the problem has gone away. This is simply not true. Just like a paper-cut on your fingertip, the pain eases long before the skin heals up. It is the same with low back pain, your back will begin to feel better long before it has regained full strength and stability. It is important not to stop your rehab exercises too early just because the pain has gone!
So there you have it, whether you have just injured yourself, or you have been suffering with an old injury, your body has to follow the natural course of events as you progress through the stages of healing. There is no other way. It takes time to get better, and the step by step action plan of the Total Back Pain Solution will make sure that as your body progresses through the various stages of healing the damage, it will do so correctly to ensure optimal spinal strength and stability for the years to come.
If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.