What are the healing phases of a soft tissue injury?

Physio Juliet Slade explains the three healing phases of a soft tissue injury

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There are three prime phases of healing, which can vary in timeframe, depending on the severity of the soft tissue injury, says physio Juliet Slade.

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Inflammatory phase

 The body’s initial response to injury is to constrict vessels to form a blood clot. The vessels then dilate to introduce healing agents to the area, including white blood cells that will remove any bacteria. This increase in tissue pressure and blood is what causes the heat, redness, pain and swelling, and can last up to three days.

Proliferative phase

This allows for new tissue to be laid down. The new scar tissue has poor elasticity and can therefore run the risk of re-injury. This can take up to 4-6 weeks depending on severity.

Remodelling phase

This is the final component, which allows for collagen fibres to mature and increase tensile strength within the tissue making it less susceptible to re-injury. Again, depending on severity this could be 6-12 weeks or it could be up to a year.

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An important component of soft tissue healing is the time for recovery. A physio can guide you towards an appropriate time to re-introduce activity. To aid healing, particularly during the inflammatory phase, PRICE protocol can be applied: Protect the area from further damage/infection; Rest to offload the tissue; Ice to reduce pain and swelling; Compression in the presence of bleeding to encourage clotting; Elevation to encourage fluid/blood to return to the heart to manage swelling and bleeding. 

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Juliet Slade is a physiotherapist at Six Physio


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If you have any concerns at all, like with any health issue, seek medical advice from a qualified medical practitioner, whether that’s a doctor or physiotherapist. During this lockdown time Six Physio are offering virtual physio appointments.