Sprains and strains are painful injuries that many of us have suffered, perhaps with work, from sport, or with an auto collision. After the injury occurs, it can feel better to immobilize the injured joint and keep it still. In the very early stages of healing after an injury occurs, immobilization can be useful to prevent further injury while inflammation and swelling are present. As immobilization helped decrease our pain at first, we may imagine that it will benefit us to rest and keep the joint immobilized until it is fully healed, however, this can slow healing and may result in restriction as well as weakening of the muscles and the joint itself.
The joints of the body and the related ligaments have a poor blood supply as they don’t consume very much energy compared to other structures such as the muscles. As this is the case, much of the nutrition provided to the joints and ligaments comes from passive diffusion through the lubricating fluid of the joints. When the joints are moved, this helps speed up diffusion of nutrients and helps the joints and ligaments to heal more quickly.
Joint movement also helps to align healing tissues fibers with the existing fibers of the muscles and ligaments. Without movement, scar tissue that forms may adhere to adjacent tissues. If a joint is immobilized for too long, joint restriction, pain, and weakness can result. Additionally, the muscles will detrain and weaken without use, and if immobilized for long enough, can atrophy and shrink.
Passive and active range of motion exercises are low impact and relatively safe exercises that can be started early in the healing process after initial inflammation and swelling has begun to subside. Exercises may include gently moving and stretching the neck and back, swinging the shoulder in a pain free range, or opening and closing the fingers of the hands. Pain and discomfort with range of motion exercises should be mild at most, and increased swelling should not occur.
Chiropractic care is effective at treating and improving the healing of joint injuries. As the healing process progresses, it is important to progress to more strenuous exercises. Multiple joint injuries such as those sustained in auto accident can complicate healing. Our Chiropractors will be able to develop a treatment plan including exercise that is appropriate for each stage of your condition. Contact our Chiropractic office in SE Portland at (503) 206-8863, or Aloha / Beaverton, OR at (503) 992-6080 if you are suffering from a joint injury.