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How Long Will My Injury Take To Recover?

You would think this would have an easy answer with the advances in technology and medicine, but unfortunately this is not always the case.


Because the healing of the muscle, ligament, tendon, nerve, bone, cartilage etc is not always  the only thing that needs to improve during your recovery period.

There are 3 key issues that are factored into your recovery after an injury:

  1. LOCAL AREA (Where it hurts)

  2.  REGIONAL AREA (Next to where it hurts)

  3. GLOBAL AREA (Other factors including pain sensitivity, fear of injury, general health, mental or emotional stress etc )

 As recovery from your injury does not often equal just healing times of the tissue injured, we will expand on each topic towards the end of this post. For now, to make this a little easier to understand, we will use knee pain as an example below.

This might be someone who had a minor knee injury (Grade 1 MCL sprain) and are otherwise very happy and healthy. If they follow good advice and manage their injury well they should recover well overall as the tissue heals over the upcoming 2-4 weeks.

This might be a person who has knee pain from time to time after having a minor injury several months/years ago. They also have their hip and/or ankle that are not in good shape.

  • Injured tissue in the knee has healed, but it gets stirred up often if they run.

  • Why? The ankle or hip aren’t doing their “fair share”

  • If we only work on the knee the problem often returns, but if we work on the hip or ankle then the problem is resolved for the long-term.

This person above might have knee pain from a recent minor knee injury, but their pain is not improving or possibly getting worse. There pain could be magnified and not improving for several global reasons.

  • This could be from that they are really stressed that their knee pain won’t improve and therefore they may lose their job.

  • They may also be in poor physical health

  • Maybe even a friend “had the same condition” and could never walk again without pain.

  • This person often needs great education around pain and their injury as well as a great management plan for recovery. In some circumstances, we often work with their G.P or other allied health practitioners to get the best results.

This could be someone who had a significant cartilage tear in their knee, but also had an existing ankle problem that is not 100%.

  • Knee tissue injured can take longer to heal directly if it is getting irritated regular due to the ankle transferring more stress to the knee.

  • This person may take months to completely recover instead of weeks.

This could be someone who has a bit of everything going on: Knee pain getting worse from:

  • A minor knee strain

  • A stiff hip

  • High levels of work/family stress.

  • This person sometimes will think the situation is worse then it is structurally and if not managed correctly could have unnecessary scans or surgery.

  • This person at times can flare up easy in the initial stages of recovery if not managed correctly.

  • This person needs a very specific management plan that often in the initial weeks will be slower then most to avoid flareups.

 This could be someone who has a significant knee injury with also:

  • A high level of fear around their knee with pain.

  • They may have had a friend who had a “similar” injury and ended up needing knee surgery.

  • They may fear they could never play with their grandchildren again.

  • They may not have a good support network with friends or family.

As you might guess this could be a patient that has many things going against them for recovery. This could be a patient with:

  • A new significant knee injury

  • Previous hip surgery that didn’t recover well

  • Has significant financial stress

  • Poor general health

  • Has been labelled a “chronic pain” patient previously.

  • This is a patient that can take several months to recover and needs a fairly conservative approach as a moderate flareup could send them into a significant downward spiral in life.

  • These are the patients that sadly many health practitioners do not want to treat as they are complex and time consuming. However, we love the challenge of this complex person and have additional training to deal with these issues. The reward in seeing the patients quality of life improve once they have recovered is tremendous and why we love our profession.

As you can see there are plenty of possibilities and plenty more combinations of local, regional and global issues that may shape our time frames to achieve full recovery. This is why it is important to receive a thorough physical assessment, but also to understand someone’s general health and circumstances in life. We work with patients on global areas, but at times will need to work with other health care providers on areas that are not our area of expertise such as dietitian, heart specialist etc. By doing this, we achieve better outcomes and provide a clearer path to success for our patients.


Below we will go into a little more detail regarding the Local Areas, Regional Areas, and Global Areas.

Local Area:

The local area is the tissue that has been injured.

  • Research has shown that different types of tissues take varying lengths of time to heal so these time frames below are a general guide to your tissues recovery.

  • Bone:

    • Simple fractures generally take around 6 weeks to heal well enough to use again, but the bone can actually still be healing/remodelling for up to 2 years.

  • Tendons :

    • Mild strain/tear: Days to a couple of weeks

    • Moderate strain/tear: A few weeks to a few months

    • Severe strain/tear: Several weeks up to a year

  • Ligaments:

    • Mild sprain/tear: Days to a couple of weeks

    • Moderate sprain/tear: A few weeks to a few months

    • Severe sprain/tear: Several weeks up to a year

  • Muscle:

    • Mild strain/tear: 7-14 Days

    • Moderate strain/tear: 3-4 Weeks

    • Severe strain/tear: 3-6 Months

  • Nerve:

    • Time frames for recovery vary greatly.

    • Some nerve injuries can recovery very quickly: hitting your “funny bone” or having a burner or stinger in football.

    • Others may take several weeks to months if you cut/damage a nerve in your limbs.

    • Others may not recover well at all such as with Spinal Cord Injuries.

Regional Areas:

This is areas surrounding your injured area. These surrounding areas can be not working well either before, during or after an injury. This is because muscles and joints work together, and if something nearby isn’t doing its fair share something else often will have to pick up the slack.

This can be due to:

  • Surrounding areas moving less due to in pain so other joints and muscles in the area become weak or stiff

  • Surrounding areas were not moving well before you injured yourself and possible caused the dysfunction to start with

Improving regional areas are often a great way to improve pain and function without potentially flaring up the injured tissue. Think of this as taking the load off the injured tissue.

Global Areas:

These are “big picture” factors that may assist or hinder in the recovery of an injury. As you may know, the body consists of various systems that work together and interact with one another.

This includes things such as:

  • Understanding of Pain: Your views on pain and how you and your body deal with pain

  • Fear related to Injury

  • Sleeping habits

  • Nutrition and eating habits

  • Work hours and work stress

  • Mental health

  • General physical activity levels

  • Stress management strategies

  • General Health: including hormone levels, glucose levels, cholesterol levels etc

  • Support network or family situation

Global factors can sometimes take a little longer to change, as some of them have become habit or part of our lifestyle.

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