While it's your doctor's responsibility to diagnose your injury accurately and prescribe an effective treatment plan, it's up to you to make the most of the opportunity to recover.
By following your physician's recommendations and working diligently through the three phases of recovery (defined below), you'll take an active role in your rehabilitation, and help ensure that you achieve maximum medical improvement.
Recovery from musculoskeletal pain and injury is a process that requires gradually rebuilding your body back to its pre-injury condition, and is a communal effort between you and your physician.
The individualized treatment plan that your physiatrist develops is tailored to take you through the following three stages of recovery, and will include checkpoints and specific goals to be reached in order to restore you to your maximum health.
The first step in your recovery is actually the acute phase of your injury (first four days). Getting expert medical attention immediately following an accident will help minimize the acute phase.
Specifically, seeing a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation specialist at the onset of an injury will help reduce the likelihood of excess swelling, stiffness, or muscle loss. During the acute phase, you can expect to get a lot of rest, ice, compression and elevation (aptly referred to as the R.I.C.E. formula).
It can be difficult to maintain your overall condition during the acute phase; however, making every effort to do so will help accelerate your overall recovery time. Things to consider during the acute phase include…
In the next phase of recovery, the subacute phase (five-21 days following injury), your physician will work with you to regain a full range of motion and recover strength in the damaged area (if necessary, doctors can use electrical stimulation to maintain muscle tone). This will include various range-of-motion exercises, as well as balance and agility drills.
In the final phase of recovery, the remodeling phase (three weeks to one year or more), you can return to your regular daily routine; however, your physician will continue to monitor your progress closely. It's important not to push yourself too hard during the remodeling phase, as you may be prone to reinjury. Always allow for plenty of warm up time, and be sure to apply ice to the recovering area immediately following the activity.
During each of these phases, it is vital to keep an open line of communication between you and your doctor, and to alert him or her to any changes in your condition or of unexpected pain. By partnering with your physician, closely following his guidelines, and being aware of any side effects of your injury, your process of recovery and rehabilitation can go smoothly, and return you back to your life before musculoskeletal pain and injury.