HOW LONG UNTIL I HEAL??Jul 11, 2023
Understanding Muscles, Cartilage, Ligaments, Tendons, Bones, and Nerves and Exploring Healing Times for Each
Some of them like to stick around for much longer than we'd like and we're left scratching our heads trying to remember how long our last injury took to go away and how this one is different. It can all be very confusing.
So after a ridiculously long period of resting your thing, you might find yourself rhetorically asking
"When the hell is this thing going heal???"
I wrote this article for you, my dearest, hoping that this additional information and context will give you renewed motivation to not resign yourself to living in pain.
We are fortunate because our bodies are incredibly sophisticated structures made up of various interconnected components that enable us to move, perform complex tasks, and experience a helluva lot of sensations.
Among these crucial components are muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bones, and nerves. Each of these can be considered a type of fascia and each plays a unique role in our overall function and mobility.
What’s interesting is that their healing times can vary significantly.
It may seem like a broken bone is the worst possible outcome of any accident but is it really??
The truth is that in often times you’d be better off breaking a bone than tearing a ligament or tendon!
That’s because your juicy, red muscles get more blood (plus lymph and oxygen) than your whitish-pink ligaments and your ligaments get more healing juices then your lily-white tendons. That roughly correlates to the speediness of the healing processes of those respective structures.
Let’s explore these essential elements of the human body and delve into the different healing times required for each.
Here’s a quick n’ easy cheat sheet on general healing times of these commonly injured structures:
Muscle sprains may take days to weeks. Muscle tears may take up to a few months
Cartilage takes about 12 weeks to heal
Ligaments take about 10-12 weeks to heal (from sprains)
Tendons several months+
Bones take about 8 weeks to heal on average
Nerves typically take the longest, they may heal in 3-4 months although complex nerve damage can last much longer
These are, by no means, hard-and-fast rules.
Each person’s body heals differently, and the length of the process will depend on your unique history, your lifestyle, the specifics of your individual injury as well as which healing protocols you choose follow, such as resting, rehabbing and exercising.
What it is: Muscles are bundles of fibrous tissues that contract and relax to produce movement.
What they do: They come in different sizes and shapes, and their primary function is to generate force and enable motion.
Healing considerations: The healing time for muscles can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Mild muscle strains may heal within a few days to a couple of weeks, while more severe injuries, such as muscle tears, can take several weeks or even months to fully recover. Proper rest, rehabilitation exercises, and sometimes medical interventions like physical therapy or surgery may be necessary to facilitate muscle healing.
What it is: Cartilage is a firm and flexible connective tissue found in various parts of the body, including the joints, ears, and nose.
What it does: It provides cushioning and reduces friction between bones, allowing for smooth joint movement.
Healing considerations: Cartilage has limited regenerative capabilities, and its healing time is often slower compared to other tissues. Minor cartilage injuries, such as small tears or cracks, can take several weeks to months to heal. However, more extensive cartilage damage or conditions like osteoarthritis may require longer healing times and specialized treatments, including medications, physical therapy, or even surgical interventions like cartilage transplantation or joint replacement.
What it is: Ligaments are strong, fibrous bands of tissue that connect bones to other bones, providing stability to the joints.
What they do: They are essential for maintaining joint integrity and preventing excessive movement.
Healing considerations: When ligaments are injured, such as through sprains or tears, the healing time can vary. Mild ligament sprains may heal within a few weeks with proper rest, icing, and supportive measures like compression and elevation. However, severe ligament injuries or complete tears may necessitate several months of healing, immobilization, physical therapy, and, in some cases, surgical reconstruction to restore stability to the affected joint, which may require 12 months or more of rehabilitation.
A physical therapist may use a combination of techniques to relieve pain and improve coordination, strength, and flexibility. They’re also likely to treat a ligament injury with heat or cold, or suggest other methods like electrical stimulation, ultrasounds or a massage.
What it is: Tendons connect muscles to bones, enabling the transmission of muscle force to produce movement.
What they do: They are are crucial for joint mobility and stability and they’re made up of tough, fibrous cords. Because these fascial fibers contain less blood flow than ligaments or muscles, they usually take longer to heal.
Healing considerations: When tendons are injured, whether through overuse, trauma, or degenerative conditions, healing times tend to be protracted. Mild tendonitis or inflammation may resolve within a few weeks with rest, ice, and physical therapy. However, more severe tendon injuries, such as partial or complete tears, often require several months of healing. Treatment approaches can include immobilization, physical therapy, medications, and occasionally surgical repair or reconstruction.
Recent research has shown that many tendon injuries respond better to progressive loading than protracted rest, as the muscle tension brings blood flow into the tissues helps to expedite healing.
A physical therapist may use a combination of techniques to relieve pain and improve coordination, strength, and flexibility. They’re also likely to treat a tendon injury with heat or cold, or suggest other methods like electrical stimulation, ultrasounds or a massage. Yes, you just read the exact same thing for ligament treatment, as they’re often treated in a similar fashion.
What it is: Your bone forms your firmer fascial framework, what we refer to as your skeleton. Although you may think bones as being hard like cement, you've actually got three different types of bone with varying properties: Compact bone forms the firmer, outer part of your bone, cancellous bone is deeper and spongier, and subchondral which is the type of bone found at the very end part of your bones, the part which connects them to joint cartilage and/or tendons.
What it does: Bones provide support, protection, and anchorage for muscles.
Healing considerations: You've heard of bone marrow, right? That's where blood cells are made so your bones are actually powerhouses for healing! They're richly perfused with blood and so your bones have impressive regenerative capabilities and can repair themselves through a process called remodeling. Healing times for bone fractures can vary widely depending on several factors, including the location, severity, and type of fracture. Minor fractures may heal within a few weeks, while more complex fractures may require several months. Factors like age, overall health, and appropriate immobilization or surgical intervention can also influence healing times.
What they are: Nerves are the intricate network of fibers that transmit signals between the brain, spinal cord, and various parts of the body.
What they do: Nerves facilitate sensory perception, movement, and bodily functions.
Healing Considerations: Nerve injuries can be particularly challenging, as nerve tissue has limited regenerative capabilities. The healing time for nerve injuries can be extensive and often requires specialized medical care. While mild nerve injuries, such as nerve compression, may improve over weeks to months, more severe nerve damage may necessitate a prolonged healing process, sometimes involving surgical repair, nerve grafts, or other advanced treatments. Full functional recovery may take months or even years.
It’s important to let your doctors know when you first notice the signs of nerve damage - don’t want to wait too long because sometimes nerves reach a point of being irreparable.
KNOW THE SIGNS OF NERVE DAMAGE
Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
Feeling like you're wearing a tight glove or sock
Muscle weakness, especially in your arms or legs
Regularly dropping objects that you're holding
Sharp pains in your hands, arms, legs, or feet
A buzzing sensation that feels like a mild electrical shock
In conclusion, the healing times for muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bones, and nerves can vary significantly depending on the severity and nature of the injury, as well as individual factors such as age, overall health, and adherence to appropriate treatment plans. It is crucial to seek medical attention for any significant injury and follow the recommended rehabilitation protocols to optimize healing and restore functionality. Remember: Even old injuries require ongoing care, so it’s a good idea to factor in some ongoing maintenance long after you’ve “healed”.
Patience, adherence to medical advice, and a long-term, comprehensive approach to recovery are key elements in facilitating the healing process for these essential components of our bodies.