The 4 Stages of Physical Rehabilitation Treatment

If you have suffered an injury, undergone certain types of surgery, or experience physical limitations due to aging or underlying health conditions, physical rehabilitation may be necessary to restore the body to optimal form and function. Without an effective treatment plan, the rehab process can take a lot longer than need be while also running the risk of less-than-optimal recovery. Although the specific exercises and methods of rehabilitation you need will depend on the type and severity of your injury, the rehab process itself can be broken down into four basic stages. We’ve outlined these stages in order to help guide you and maximize your chances of successful rehabilitation:

The Primary Stages of Physical Rehabilitation

1. The Recovery Stage

The first stage of physical rehabilitation is the Recovery Stage. This is the most important stage of the treatment process and, depending on the severity of your injuries, can also be the longest. The goal of this first stage is simple: to recuperate and allow your body to begin the healing process. It’s important to rest and prevent aggravating the injury as best as possible. This may include keeping weight or pressure off of the injured area or protecting the injury with a cast or sling. Treating inflammation and pain are also important during this stage; methods may include ice/heat, over-the-counter pain relief or NSAIDs, or prescription medications.

2. The Repair Stage

After the healing process has begun, the next step is to start recovering movement and mobility. The main goal of the Repair Stage is to gently ease your body back to pre-injury levels of range-of-motion (ROM), or as close to pre-injury levels as possible. Soft-tissue and gentle range-of-motion exercises are important to start this stage so that you don’t over-extend or aggravate the injury. Flexibility exercises can also help prevent the long-term effects of decreased range-of-motion or function. Small weights may be used during the exercises if safe to do so, but more intensive strength training is discouraged at this time.

3. The Strength Stage

Once your range-of-motion has been restored as best as possible, the next stage of physical rehab is to start restoring strength. Resting during the Recovery Stage can cause muscular atrophy or wasting that leads to weakness and loss of endurance. In the Strength Stage, the goal is to minimize these losses and work back to pre-injury levels of muscular strength and endurance, along with cardiovascular endurance. With the use of weight machines, strength training can be done safely and precisely while reducing the risk of aggravating injuries – or risking new ones. This is an incredible advantage and makes them great tools for rehabilitation.

4. The Function Stage

The final step or the rehab process is to work towards restoring function. In order to effectively restore a patient to pre-injury levels of function, it’s important to address higher-level capabilities in order to reduce the risk of re-injury. Effective treatment will identify any deficiencies in these capabilities, determine how significant these deficiencies are, and work up methods to bring these capabilities back up to pre-injury levels. These capabilities may include:

  • Coordination
  • Change-of-direction capability
  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Rate-of-force development (the speed at which force can be produced)

At Colorado Occupational Medical Partners, our mission is to deliver the highest quality of occupational health care and physical rehabilitation to return patients to their highest level of function. Our team is dedicated to employers and patients, and we strive to develop strong, positive relationships with a culture based on safety, transparency, empathy, and trust. To find out more, find our location nearest to you.

Let Colorado Occupational Medical Partners be your source for occupational therapies and care in Colorado.