How long after sustaining an injury should you wait to begin rehabilitation? Is it worth waiting to see if the condition improves, or is immediate treatment the way to go?

When to begin rehabilitation

The New England Journal of Medicine conducted studies to find the answer to these questions. These studies involved 50 amateur athletes, each with an acute injury in either their calf or thigh muscles. These participants were recruited within 48 hours of having sustained the injury and were randomly placed into two groups: one group began rehabilitation two days following the injury, and the other waited nine days before starting rehab.

Each group went through the same rehabilitation plan:

Week 1: daily static stretching

Week 2-4: daily isometric loading

Week 5-8: heavy strength training

Week 9-12: functional and strength training

The studies found that the group that began rehab early was able to return to sport three weeks faster than the delayed-rehab group. That is 62 days vs. 83 days. As well as this, the early rehab group was able to reduce their pain levels much faster.

Immobilisation and delaying rehabilitation following an acute muscle injury delays your return to sport and prolongs the pain. Patients should begin their rehabilitation with strengthening and loading exercises as early as they safely can.

When it comes to acute muscle injuries, amateur athletes should avoid taking a “wait and see” approach. Get your injury assessed by our physiotherapists within 48 hours and we will put you on an appropriate rehabilitation program that includes progressive loading and strengthening. This can help reduce the pain and help you return to what you love doing, quickly and safely!

If you’ve recently sustained an injury and need an assessment, please call our Sydney physios today. We can put you on a rehabilitation program specific to your needs.