Total Knee Replacement Surgery Series with Dr. Kelly Starrett, DPT

Part 3: There Are No Fast Healers

Kelly Starrett, DPT of The Ready State reviews some general guidelines to establish timing expectations when recovering from an injury or soft tissue trauma.  He starts by stating: even though some people may claim to be “fast healers” after an injury, or you’ve seen someone who seems to have faster recovery times than most people, the reality is:

There is no such thing as fast healers.

The human body is built to heal at a certain rate.  No one can heal faster than this established rate.  However, many people heal slower than the rate at which our bodies are naturally designed to.  So it can seem like some people heal quicker but it’s only compared to those that are actually healing slower.  What’s really happening with people that seem to be “fast healers” is that they’ve been able to maximize the human physiology potential, and they‘ve got enough going on in their environment to facilitate this.  

When talking about soft tissue trauma or surgical trauma, it’s important to keep those environmental factors or biopsychosocial components in mind.  We can’t really separate those factors from the equation because they either help or hinder one’s ability to heal at the maximum rate.  Examples of these components are:

  1. Whether or not you feel loved and safe in your environment?
  2. Are you sleeping enough? Ideally 8-10 hours a night to help tissues rest and remodel.
  3. Are you drinking enough water to help decongest the tissues?
  4. Are you eating enough protein, cartilage, and other things that your body needs to rebuild?

Bottom line is, you’re either doing these things or you’re not.  You’re either progressively loading the tissues and helping them to remodel and rebuild, or you’re not.

Traditionally, there are basically three big phases for healing soft tissue trauma:

  1. Inflammatory phase
  2. Proliferation phase
  3. Remodeling phase

Keep in mind that tissues need to be loaded in order to heal.  If you understand the fundamentals of tissue loading, then you’ll probably better understand why your physician or physical therapist is prescribing certain movement or loading protocols at certain times during the recovery process.

The goal is to systematically load the tissues in a specific way for the ligament, tendon, bone, and tissues to load and heal properly.  It should be a consistent and progressive plan, so that what you’re doing in week one and two prepares your body for what you’ll do in week three and four, and so on.  It’s about constant adaptation. You need to stress the bone for it to remodel, just like you need to load the tissues so that they know what to do and how to heal.

Kelly continues to outline a few general timing guidelines for different levels of tissue, bone, and ligament trauma and what to expect from your body according to those timelines so that you can aim to heal at the maximum rate that humans are designed to.

Catch up on the previous parts to this series:

Total Knee Replacement Surgery Series Part 1: Short Term Goals

Total Knee Replacement Surgery Series Part 2: Setting Up Your Environment

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