Is rest is best? How soon should you see a PT after an injury?
Well obviously if you look like Kermit here it might pay off to lay low for a bit. But even then, it should be relative rest. Purposeful rest. Meaning, if I hurt my back shoveling, I should rest… FROM SHOVELING. But sitting on the sofa would be one of the worst things for me. After an injury, or EVEN with chronic pain, we need to immediately working on restoring movement and strength. This may mean seeing a Physical Therapist depending on the severity of the injury or pain.
But why shouldn’t we rest? Where’s the evidence for that? Haven’t we always been told to rest? Brace it, splint it, elevate it, ice it? Here’s some research to explain why rest is NOT best, and why early rehab is. There’s so much to talk about, but let’s just take this study for an example. The New England Journal of Medicine followed some athletes that strained a muscle, BAD. Here’s what happened:
50 athletes strained a muscle. Half got PT right away (2 days later) and half waited 9 days to start PT.
The group that started PT 2 days after their injury got better 3 weeks faster (on average) than the group that waited till day 9 to start PT. Waiting 1 week cost them 3 weeks of play.
The takeaway? Injured tissue responds BEST to immediate mobilization and loading. After an injury (or even chronic bad knee or back,) what is needed is a GRADED and STRUCTURED progression of mobility and strength with new and different exercises each week(s)/month based on how the body is healing.
If athletes waiting 1 week to start PT delays their recovery 3 weeks, how much do you think delaying PT could cost you if you wait months or years! It’s SO much easier to help people back to 100% if we get after it right away.