If you have recently suffered a sports related injury, you most likely have a plan for recovery that can include corrective surgery and several months of rehabilitation. While it is important to work with a physical therapist and follow their instructions for appropriate exercises to aid in your recovery, it is also important that you understand the basic aspects of rehabilitation and what each step of your rehabilitation regime is trying to achieve. Understanding how rehabilitation works can reduce your frustration with the process and limit your risk of injuring yourself again during your training.
The first part of sports rehabilitation involves reducing your pain in the injured area. This generally involves large amounts of rest, appropriate braces to reduce stress and strain on the injured area, and a slow weaning off of pain medication.
Although you can start physical therapy while you are still suffering mild pain at your injury site, you should not return to your sport until your pain has completely subsided and you are no longer taking pain medication. Being honest with your physical therapist about your pain levels can help them create a more effective, long-lasting therapy routine for you.
Once your pain has subsided enough for you to put pressure on your injury site, your physical therapist will give you gentle exercises to rebuild your strength at your injury site. During the strength rebuilding phase, it is important to not overdo your exercises. You may experience slight fatigue and pain, but if you experience extreme fatigue or pain that lasts for more than a day, you should let your therapist know so they can modify your exercises.
You should not advance in your exercises without permission from your therapist and you should not return to your sport until you have regained most of your strength.
While you are completing strength training, you will also complete neuromuscular training. This involves slight pressure and corrective resistance to encourage your nerves to activate the correct muscles for each physical task. Neuromuscular training may feel gentle and passive, but it is an important part of your recovery because it teaches your body to stop accommodating an injury that is no longer there and improves the efficiency of your movement.
You can return to your sport while you are still undergoing neuromuscular training, as long as you are at safe strength levels. However, it is unlikely that you will reach your prior abilities until our neuromuscular training is complete.
Each aspect of physical therapy has a slightly different purpose. It is important that you discuss the goals of each session with your therapist so you can work together to reach your full physical potential.