Movement vs. Immobilization. Rethinking the Approach to Acute Injury Care.

For years we've been booting, bracing, and crutching new injuries as a way to protect the area until pain self resolves. Recent evidence suggests that prolonged immobilization not only slows healing, but increases the chances of future complications. Research also shows that getting an injury moving (in a pain free range) is the best way to speed the healing process and prevent future injuries.

Here are the top five reasons to use motion, rather than immobilization, when treating a new injury:

  1. Pain free range of motion promotes the proper healing of soft tissues which decreases the amount of scar tissue build up in the healing process. This leads to greater range of motion and decreased chance of suffering the same injury later on.
  2. Even small amplitude oscillatory movements can be used to stimulate the mechanoreceptors that inhibit the transmission of painful stimuli at the spinal cord and brain stem levels. In English: Movement overrides pain signals to the brain
  3. Joint motion stimulates the movement of synovial fluid, which brings nutrients to the avascular articular cartilage of the joint surfaces
  4. Atrophy of the articular cartilage begins soon after immobilization is imposed on joints. In English: Prolonged immobilization causes joint cartilage to deteriorate contributing to arthritis and further joint pain as we age.
  5. Improved lymphatic drainage. Contraction of surrounding musculature helps pump waste products from the injury site out our lymphatic system limiting the amount of swelling and speeding the healing process.

The best thing you can do after suffering an injury is to get it moving in a pain free range. Immobilization of the injured area can lead to further degeneration while movement improves the health of the tissue and speeds healing time. 

Disclaimer: More serious injuries such as fractures, tendon ruptures, muscle tears, still need to be immobilized to allow tissues to heal together, but range of motion exercises need to be incorporated as soon as possible.

Evolve Performance Healthcare is about rethinking long held beliefs in the medical field regarding health, healthcare, and injury management. Looking for ways to improve our approach for better patient outcomes.