2006-09-29 / Columnists

Eye On Physical Therapy

By Dr. Tim Rohrs, DPT

Most people that arrive in our office for physical therapy have suffered some type of injury.

Damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons and bone are all common enough.

The mechanism of injury may be different. For some the onset was clear cut; they fell, they lifted something too heavy, they twisted the wrong way.

In many cases the cause of injury is not so clear. "It just started one morning," I hear. "It gradually started and got worse over the weeks," is another.

Regardless of the onset, there has been some damage to the tissues. These tissues need to heal.

What is remarkable is that when we are young, our bodies heal very quickly, despite our actions that are sometimes contrary to the healing process.

For example, if I were to hit my thumb with a hammer it would hurt a lot. If everyday for one week I continued to hit my thumb with the hammer, it would come as no surprise that I would still have pain and swelling at the end of the week.

I did not let my thumb heal.

As it was healing, I interrupted the healing process by hitting it again, aggravating it.

Although the body is trying to heal, my actions got in the way and slowed the process down.

Whether the body part is an ankle, shoulder, elbow or back, these same principals apply. The tissues that have been injured are trying to heal.

Many patients know exactly what their painful activities are.

If pain is experienced while playing tennis, stair climbing or lifting a gallon of milk, that activity must stop.

If mending tissues have strain and stress placed upon them the result will be pain.

Those mending tissues are now being "pulled apart". This is slowing the healing process down.

Another analogy I like to use is using Crazy Glue. Some of us might remember the famous commercial of a construction worker being suspended from a girder by his hard hat Crazy glued to the girder.

If he were try to suspend his body weight before the glued fully dried, he would have fallen. If that glue were able to experience pain, I am sure it would have felt a lot of pain as the glue separated from the girder and hard hat as it was pulled apart.

Our mending, healing tissues are similar to that glue. Once it has fully healed, that tendon or ligament will perform normally. While undergoing the healing process, just like the glue, when stress is placed upon it, it tears apart and is painful.

While healing, let pain be your guide. If it is painful, STOP! That old saying of "NO PAIN, NO GAIN" is not your saying when injured.

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