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Stages of Soft Tissue Healing After an Accident

If you’ve suffered a recent muscle, ligament, or tendon injury, you’re likely wondering when you’ll feel back to normal and fully recovered. Most people expect to fully recover within a few weeks of injury, but the body often takes much longer to complete the full tissue healing process.

Soft tissue injuries like a sprained ankle, twisted knee, or torn muscle trigger the body’s tissue healing process. Here’s an introduction to the four main stages of soft tissue healing, so you know what to expect as you heal from your injury.

Phase 1: Bleeding

Depending on the extent and type of your injury, you may experience bleeding. Muscles tend to bleed longer since they have very good blood supplies, so muscle injuries often result in a larger bruise. Ligament injuries bleed much less since they don’t have as good of a blood supply.

Bleeding usually stops between four to 6 hours after injury. It’s critical to rest during this period, so the bleeding can stop. 

Phase 2: Inflammation

The inflammation phase begins within one to two hours after injury and peaks around one to three days later. Generally, the inflammation stage lasts for a couple of weeks. During this phase, you may notice swelling and warmth around your injury. Don’t panic—this is a normal part of the healing process, triggering the next stage of tissue healing.

To help your body recover as quickly as possible, make sure to elevate the injured area when you’re resting. You can also ice the area to reduce the pain and swelling. Make sure you’re keeping the injured area moving within a comfortable range to maintain strength and flexibility which also aids in the healing process.

Phase 3: Proliferation

The proliferation stage of soft tissue healing starts within 24 to 48 hours after injury, then peaking around two to three weeks later. During this stage, your body starts repairing the injury by creating scar tissue. You’ll still experience symptoms as the healing process is in full effect. At this stage, you should exercise the area, but don’t try to push through the pain. Slowly build strength and flexibility, making sure not to overload the newly-formed scar tissue.

Phase 4: Remodeling

New scar tissue needs to be trained to behave like the structure it replaced. Around three weeks after injury, the body naturally remodels the scar tissue to mimic the function of the original tissue in a process that can take up to two years. Many people find success in their healing by following a targeted rehab program prescribed by a physical therapist.

Get the Care You Need to Fully Heal From a Soft Tissue Injury

Often, the full process of healing a soft tissue injury takes longer than most people expect. If you’re not completely back to normal even weeks after an injury, don’t panic—the physical therapy team at Impact Medical Group of St. Petersburg can help. We’ll create a customized treatment plan that meets your stage of healing, so you can get closer to full recovery. Call us today at (727) 722-8103 to schedule your free consultation!