How Long After an Injury Should You Start Physical Therapy?

How Long After an Injury Should You Start Physical Therapy?

Injury can happen anywhere. Whether it’s a sports injury, work injury, or something that happened at home, it can be scary not knowing what’s going to happen after the injury takes place. Not knowing what to do after an injury takes place can be overwhelming. There may be looming questions, like how long the recovery will be or when to start physical therapy.


Figuring out how long after an injury to start physical therapy can be confusing. Reinjury can be a concern. So is not knowing what to expect. Although physical therapy is an important step to recovery, the time you should wait to start physical therapy after an injury often depends on the scope of the injury itself.


Why Physical Therapy is Important

Starting physical therapy as soon as it is safe to do so after an injury is a crucial step to making a full recovery. Physical therapy can help reduce the risk of more complications to the injury and can even speed up recovery time…when done correctly with a licensed physical therapist.


How soon physical therapy should start and at which stage it will be helpful depends on the severity and the nature of the injury. This means that seeing a professional, such as a certified physical therapist or doctor, can help you figure out which timing is best. A professional will also have the expertise and skills to provide a personalized treatment plan with exercises to treat the injury so that patients can return to normal as quickly as possible. In some cases, rehabilitation exercises can start as soon as a couple of days after injury.


Oftentimes, delaying physical therapy can result in injuries and symptoms becoming worse. And if they get worse, they will be more expensive to treat. As soon as you are injured, it’s important for patients to seek out the opinion of a medical professional regarding physical therapy so that they can prevent permanent nerve damage and reduced range of motion, among other things.


For specific Injuries:

Rotator Cuff Injury

Knee Injury

Ankle Injuries

Hamstring Injuries


When to Start Physical Therapy After a Rotator Cuff Injury


The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder that help stabilize the joint. It helps aid in movement and stability whenever someone moves the shoulder.


Injury to the rotator cuff can often mean surgery and making sure the joint heal properly by timing each step of recovery is important. Every healing journey is different but taking it easy after a rotator cuff injury is imperative so that the joint is not reinjured. 

That said, generally speaking, physical therapy usually starts immediately after surgery. At this point, the arm will still be in a sling, and a physical therapist will be doing most of the movement, but starting movement early on can help prevent stiffness in the joint.


When to Start Physical Therapy After Knee Injuries


Injuries that affect the knee can happen at the front of the knee or under and around the kneecap. Knee pain can hinder normal body mobility and can really benefit from a personalized treatment plan with specified exercises.


Many people who have general knee pain can attribute it to patellofemoral pain (PFP), or more commonly known as “runner’s knee,” which results from overuse of the knee. This kind of knee pain will show symptoms of increased pain while walking, kneeling, squatting, and running. It’s important to refrain from these activities and rest for four to six weeks when these symptoms become more severe and start physical therapy when diagnosed. To treat PFP, physical therapy can replace the activities that flare up the symptoms in order to rebuild strength around the knee.


Other common knee injuries include fractures, knee dislocations, and tears. These injuries often happen as a result of accidents during sports or something trauma-related and are therefore more overt injuries that often include swelling.


Physical therapy for knee fractures can usually start when the knee can bend without pain—this can be one to six weeks depending on the severity of the injury.


After a knee dislocation, the joint is often immobilized for at least four to six weeks. When pain starts to decrease, and motion is restored, most people can expect to start physical therapy within a week.


Related: Physical Therapy for Knee Injuries

Physical Therapy After Recovering from Ankle Injuries


Ankle injuries are fairly common due to the vital role the ankle plays in mobility, and there are several ankle injuries that require physical therapy.


With an ankle fracture, patients usually will have a hard cast on the ankle, resulting in limited to no movement of the ankle. Casts for fractures can stay on anywhere from six to ten weeks. After the ankle is healed and the cast comes off, patients are able to start a physical therapy regimen.


As for ankle dislocation, it will take about six to eight weeks for the bones and ligaments to heal. However, physical therapy can often start early on in recovery to prevent the joints from becoming stiff.


For Hamstring Strains, Begin Physical Therapy Right Away


For hamstring strains, physical therapy should begin as soon as possible. It’s important for the healing process that pain-free agility and stabilization exercises start immediately. 


Although, it’s important to note that patients should be gentle while performing these exercises – especially early on. In order to ensure the proper technique needed for recovery, physical therapy for strains should always be guided by a licensed physical therapist.


Choose La Clinica for Physical Therapy in the Chicago Area

Finding a good therapist that can meet your needs when it comes to recovery can make a big difference. When you choose La Clinica, you’re not just choosing a physical therapy center, you’re choosing a premier injury care clinic that helps our community access top-quality multidisciplinary care. 


If you want a highly trained physical therapist in chicago area that will restore your quality of life, contact La Clinica today to book a free consultation.