Protocol for Musculoskeletal Injuries
Step 1. The injury stage
Pain is a signal of damage or threat of damage to tissue, therefore when pain is felt no matter how severe the pain is, to limit the damage done and to speed up the recovery time, immediately stop your activity and employ the RICE protocol.
If over the counter anti-inflammatory tablets can be taken they should be done so immediately to help further reduce the swelling and inflammation. They can precipitate bleeding though and should not be taken by anyone with clotting disorders. (consult your doctor if you have any concerns regarding anti-inflammatory medication)
Once RICE has been employed, report to a primary healthcare practitioner such as a Chiropractor or Medical Doctor so they can assess the type of injury and level of damage.
The primary healthcare practitioner can be a strong factor in determining how quickly one can return to training or work. As the sooner you see a practitioner the sooner a diagnosis can be made and the appropriate treatment commenced.
Step 3. Treatment
As a rough guide majority of musculoskeletal injuries take around 4-6weeks to heal. This is because it takes around 4-6 weeks for collagen based structures such as muscles, tendons, ligaments to heal. So even though the pain may disappear within a few days to a week, the underlying structual damage still needs time to repair.
Step 4. Rehabilitation
During the 4-6 week recovery period it is vital to undertake a reconditioning program to stabilise, strengthen and rehabilitate the injured tissues and joints. Research shows “coach” controlled and structured rehabilitation programs reduce the risk of re-injury.
Rehabilitation programs aren’t just for athletes and sports people either, they are vitally important for injured workers. With research showing that when employees and employers communicate and work together and utilize an early return to work intervention program, the duration and costs of occupational disability are reduced. Further more when a functional restoration program is used it lowers the risk of recurrent spinal disorders or new musculoskeletal injuries.
Pitfalls to be aware of
The damaged ligaments, tendons and muscles require weeks to repair, many people are unaware of this, returning to full activities too early resulting in re-injury. Constant re-injury destabilises the area and can lead to long term chronic problems. The injured area once fully healed will never heal as strong as uninjured tissue and therefore requires a strengthening program to protect against re-injury.