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Joint Trauma And The Healing Process

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Joints are parts of the body where bones are joined together. These complex unions consist of ligaments, overlapping tendons, muscle origins and insertions, cartilage and other soft tissues, and they come in two forms: call and hinge. A trauma to the joint such as an injury or a surgery can cause long lasting pain, weakness, and a limited range of motion if not cared for properly.

In today’s post from the online durable medical goods and orthopedic procedure recovery device providers at the Medcom Group, we will look at the fundamentals of protecting an injury from further harm and what you can expect in terms of basic recovery guidelines. Whether you are a weekend warrior, an amateur athlete, or someone who has ever taken a bad step off a curb and rolled their ankle, this foundational knowledge can be useful.

Keep reading to learn more, or if you’re in the market for a CPM machine, SCD device, or other compression or cold therapy goods and equipment, visit us online.

Severity Matters

The first thing to cover is that different joint injuries and traumas require a different approach depending on how severe they are. Rolling your ankle while hiking in the mountains, although frustrating and painful to deal with, is a completely case than someone who dislocated a shoulder or who is recovering from a knee replacement.

We will explore minor injuries and how to treat them, overuse injuries and what can be done to prevent them, and post-surgical recovery — the most intense and lengthy joint recovery process.

Initial Injury Response To Minor Injuries - The PRICE Method

Minor joint injuries come in all shapes and forms, and actually are often ignored in terms of a meaningful and intentional rehab or treatment process to promote healing and full recovery. From badly stubbing your toe to spraining your wrist after dumping your bicycle while taking a corner over some light gravel, minor injuries are painful injuries that, although debilitating in their own right, are not life threatening and don’t require surgery or dedicated physical therapy to recover from.

Often times these injuries cause minor soft tissue damage to a tendon or ligament that limits range of motion, swells up, and causes pain. Without treatment, the injury can take longer to heal and you may not regain 100% range of motion in the joint without pain or weakness. Thankfully, most of these injuries are easily cared for.

P - Protect The Injured Area

The most important thing to do is simply to avoid re-injury. Make sure that you take the necessary steps to avoid aggravating the area. This can mean sitting down if the injury is to the lower body, or possibly slinging a wrist that is hurt.

R - Restrict Activity

Joint injuries require rest to properly heal. Make sure to make accommodations for help with challenging situations such as writing in the case of a dominant hand injury or driving in the case of a right knee or ankle injury.

I - Ice It

Getting ice on a joint injury both right after injury and as a part of your treatment program for the first couple of days is essential. Ice will reduce pain and lower inflammation of the affected joint.

C - Compress It With a Bandage/Brace

Compression prevents fluid from causing to much swelling in your injured joint and also provides for a greater amount of stability, reducing your chances of further injuring yourself.

E - Elevate The Affected Area

Finally, keeping the injury elevated is important, too. Believe it or not, gravity works on blood, just like everything else. The lower your injured joint is from your heart, the more swelling you can expect from the collection of blood and other fluids. Elevating the joint in question helps and provides the added benefit of reminding you to restrict your activity until you are healed.

Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive strain and are most often a result of regular athletics or repetitive actions taken at work or at home, such as craning from poor sitting posture of a lower back strain from picking up a baby again and again throughout the day. These are often referred to as microtraumas. Some examples of common joint microtraumas include:

  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome of the wrist
  • Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis)
  • Jumper's knee (patellar tendonitis)
  • Little league elbow (overuse of the medial epicondyle apophysis)
  • Little league shoulder (overuse of the proximal humeral physis)
  • Runner's knee
  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)

If you are suffering from one of these conditions, then you have overworked the bones, tendons, muscles, or ligaments. You’ll likely notice swelling and discomfort immediately after or shortly after the activity that is causing it. Many people also find that they experience pain during the activity that then improves over time. In the worst case scenarios, these microtraumas can become constantly inflamed and irritated. By this point, your best bet is to seek an appointment with a professional to help ensure that you aren’t at risk for a macrotrauma, or serious injury.

Treatment often requires total rest, ice, gentle stretching, and finding ways to switch up your activities and movements to help promote healing. By the time your injury is chronic, it’s time to seek the help of a professional to create an effective recovery plan.

How You Can Prevent Them

To effectively prevent these kinds of injuries, you have to know what is happening. In most cases, exercise leads to a process called “remodeling,” which is the breakdown and replacement of soft tissues like muscles and tendons, as well as bones. However, when overuse is occuring, your tissues are breaking down faster than they can rebuild and strengthen.

You can probably guess where we are going from here. It doesn’t take a medical expert to make the jump to utilizing rest to help prevent overuse injuries to your joints. However, we understand that you work and exercise because you want to or need to. So what other ways can you help prevent overuse injuries in your day-today life?

  1. Listen to your body. When you feel tired or sore, it’s time to call it a day and let yourself recover before you overdo it.
  2. Consider seeking out personal training, or some other form of technique improvement, to make sure that poor posture, techniques, and habits aren’t setting you up for injury.
  3. Work to vary repetitive actions, or break them up over shorter periods of the day.
  4. Make gradual gains in time, weight, distance, etc. for any and all exercise activities as opposed to rapid advancements.
  5. Make sure to build in a dedicated rest day for yourself, no matter what is causing you pain.
  6. Always gently stretch the muscles and warm up the joints that you are going to be using.

Following these six simple rules might not guarantee that you won’t get an overuse injury, but they are a great place to start.

Recovery From Surgery

In the most serious of cases, whether due to injury or some other mechanism, you may require surgery to fix a physical problem with a joint. In the case of something like a knee replacement or an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear, you’ll need to go under the knife.

Recovery from this kind of joint trauma requires the precise knowledge of an expert such as a physical therapist and a serious commitment on your part. One of the biggest reasons that people in the United States do not fully recover from their surgery trauma is that they begin to neglect their prescribed physical therapy over time, especially as they begin to feel better — a direct result of the physical therapy itself.

However, there are many different approaches to physical therapy, just as there are many different types of injury. Joint injuries where bone was replaced will be treated differently than joint injuries where a ligament is cut or lengthened (usually using a small piece of another ligament).

Add in the different phases of recovery, from rest to range of movement recovery to strengthen the joint, and you have a long, but important road ahead of you.

CPM Machines Aid Recovery

One commonly used device utilized in the joint trauma recovery process in a CPM machine. CPM stands for, “continuous passive motion.” By setting a predetermined range of motion and speed, your CPM machine will move your joint for you, gently, steadily, and while all of your other muscles and tendons relax.

This allows the joint to help move around the fluids that are causing swelling while helping to encourage a healthy amount of blood circulation in the joint at the same time. By addressing these two important aspects of recovery, you can reduce your pain, increase your range of motion, and possibly reduce the amount of scar tissue that forms as a result of your surgery.

CPM machines are used in all three phases of the recovery process for different reasons. You may utilize one at your physical therapy clinic, or your doctor or surgeon may prescribe you one to rent or buy to be used regularly in your own home. Many machines have a programmable memory card that your doctor can put your therapy protocols onto for you, so you only have to strap in and turn the machine on to start healing

The Medcom Group Can Help

If you have been prescribed a CPM machine or other compression or cold therapy device as a part of your physical recovery regimen, make sure to visit the Medcom Group online today. We have an extensive lineup of CPM machines and other medical recovery machines and supplies. We’ve been offering top-notch customer service and competitive prices to empower people to achieve their optimal recovery from joint trauma since 1988.