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How Long Does Physical Therapy Take?

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

Physical therapy can be a lengthy process, but it is definitely worth the time spent. Physical therapy can relieve pain, improve range of motion, and accelerate recovery from injury or surgery. Whether you’re just starting your physical therapy journey or you’ve been at it a while, you may be wondering, “How long does physical therapy take?”

Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t seeing the results you want immediately. Physical therapy isn’t an overnight cure; it’s a process that involves a lot of hard work. The length of treatment is different for everyone, and it is nearly impossible to predict exactly how long it may take for an individual to make a full recovery.

Factors that Affect Treatment Time Length

  • The extent of the injury. A major injury will typically require a longer time in physical therapy than a minor injury.

  • The part of the body that is affected. Some areas of the body are able to heal faster than others. For example, muscles tend to heal more quickly than tendons or ligaments.

  • The level of effort the patient exerts. Your physical therapist will help you through your exercises and teach you what to do, but you must do the work. The harder you try and the more effort you put forth, the faster your recovery time will be. But don’t over do it. If you try to do too much before you are ready, you could do more harm than good.

  • The healing rate of the patient. Everyone heals at different rates. There is no mathematical equation for the healing of the body. Your amount of time in physical therapy may be different than someone else’s, even if you have similar injuries.

Average Healing Times for Various Tissue Types

As stated above, the length of healing time is partly determined by the body part affected. Different tissue types will heal at different rates. Here’s a breakdown of the average healing times for different tissues:

  • Muscle: 2-4 weeks

  • Tendon: 4-6 weeks

  • Bone: 6-8 weeks

  • Ligaments: 10-12 weeks

  • Cartilage: up to 12 weeks

The key to healing is blood flow. The reason muscle heals the fastest of any other tissue is that it has a rich blood supply that provides nutrients and oxygen that are necessary for healing.

Tendons and ligaments have a limited blood supply, which is why they take longer to heal. Physical therapy stimulates blood flow to accelerate healing.

Cartilage has no blood supply, which makes it extremely slow to heal. Cartilage receives lubrication from fluid in the joints through movement. This is one reason why knee and hip physical therapy can take longer. But it also explains why physical therapy can help to accelerate healing, as movement promotes joint lubrication.

Bone requires load bearing in order to heal. Bones are made to support weight, but a broken bone cannot support as much weight as a healthy bone. After a break, the bone should be immobilized for a period of time, but as healing progresses, applying weight to the bone can promote healing. This is why walking casts are beneficial for broken leg, ankle, or foot bones.

SOURCE: This content is from Manhattan PT & Pain

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