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Your first step to recovery

Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis syndrome refers to the dysfunction of the piriformis muscle which irritates the sciatic nerve. It is characterized by deep buttock region pain that radiates down leg and foot often accompanied by pins and needles and numbness traveling along the path of the sciatic nerve.

The simplistic reason for this widely distributed pain comes down to the piriformis muscle itself – Their close proximity means that direct trauma to the buttock region or the supporting structures can result in inflammation and muscle dysfunction which can compress and irritate the sciatic resulting in referred symptoms.

Piriformis syndrome symptoms may include:

  • Localised deep buttock region pain
  • Pain with continuous sitting or standing for 15 mins or over
  • Pins and needles along the leg down to the outer foot
  • Numbness in outer leg or foot (often resolves on movements)
  • Deep squatting or bending
  • Pain on direct palpation

Anatomy

 

The piriformis muscle originates from the outer surface of a large fused bone of our pelvis called the sacrum. It travels adjacently and inserts into the top of the hip joint. The piriformis muscle is a very active muscle involved in stabilizing the hip and pelvis during majority of our activities (walking, running, standing, sitting or standing, turning in bed). When the piriformis muscle contracts it helps the hip rotate outwards (external rotation) and lift thigh out and up (abduct).

The sciatic nerve originates from where the very base of the spine and the sacrum join known as the lumbosacral region (lower back and saddle region). In this region five separate branches of nerves travel outside of the bony openings of the spine called the nerve roots and connect into a single large nerve – the sciatic nerve. It then travels through the pelvis deep into the buttock region close proximity the piriformis and gluteal muscles. In some individuals the piriformis muscles can travel through the piriformis muscle subjecting them to piriformis syndrome.

Diagnosis

There are no specific tests to diagnose piriformis syndrome. Diagnosis of piriformis syndrome is made by the report of symptoms and by physical exam using a variety of movements to elicit pain to the piriformis muscle. In some cases, a contracted or tender piriformis muscle can be found on physical exam.

In cases where there is underlying pathology (such as disc injury, arthritis, sacroiliac dysfunction or hip injury) resulting in true sciatica – piriformis syndrome may develop to become an additional muscular dysfunction that is required to be addressed. Because symptoms can be similar in other conditions, radiologic tests such as MRIs may be required to rule out other causes of sciatic nerve compression, such as a herniated disc.

Consultation with a physiotherapist in this case is highly recommended as they will perform a comprehensive clinical examination to identify the root cause of your symptoms.

Exercises for piriformis syndrome

Corrective exercises with a combination of strength and flexibility regimen is an essential way to treat true piriformis syndrome (without involvement of other underlying pathologies).

The exercises outlined below follow a phase-by-phase progressive regimen to strength key muscles of the hip, buttock and legs.

As you work through these exercises expect to feel some pain during and after your exercise. Pain you may feel during the exercise is an expected sign of muscle activity. Pain you may feel after the exercises is an expected sign of muscle healing and recovery. However, if you are unable to participate in the exercises due to symptom deterioration – it is highly recommended you consult your physiotherapist to rule out other potential causes.

Otherwise, to help you gauge the correct amount of pain you should expect during exercise – use this scale. The ideal range should be 2 to 5. If your baseline pain is over 6 or 7 – it is recommended that you consult your doctor for pain relief appropriate to manage your pain, followed by a consult with a physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist will be able to modify the following exercises or prescribe alternative exercises best suited based on your current level of function and symptoms.

Symptom noting – is a great way to keep track of your progress and symptom behaviour.

  • Take a diary
  • Note down pain before you begin the exercise.
  • Note down the pain rating after each exercise.
  • Note down pain at the end of the day
  • Repeat the pain recording process for the next 4-5 days
  • Examine the trend in your symptoms.

Interference with everyday tasks – Your participation or level of exertion with everyday activities may interfere with your symptoms impacting your exercise tolerance. It is therefore important to note any of these interferences’ contributory to your pain.

Phase 1 – is a beginner stage.

This phase is intended for gently priming muscle activation. It will demand your concentration on technique and compliance to change the possible compensation your body has been used to as a result of pain. This phase can last between 1-2 weeks.

Instructions:

3 sets of 10 repetitions. Hold each repetition for 8-10 seconds. Rest 10-15 seconds between sets, 30 seconds between exercises. Do this exercise 1-2 times per day.

Bridges

 

Lie on your back.
Bend both knees and place your feet flat on the bed.
Lift your buttocks from the bed.
Place your buttocks back on the bed.
Repeat this exercise and remember to continue to breathe properly.


Clam shells

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lie on your side with your feet, ankles and knees together.
Bend the legs a little and tighten your core stability muscles.
Keeping the feet together, lift the top knee up.
Make sure you don’t roll your body back with the movement.
Control the movement as you bring the knee back down to the starting position.


Phase 2 – intermediate stage

The intermediate phase is similar to the beginner stage with the difference of using changing elements of progression to challenge the muscles capacity further. In this stage you may choose to progress the exercises by choosing to change ONE factor:

  • Increase repetitions
  • Increase hold time
  • Increase sets
  • Add appropriate resistance

Instructions:

  • 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. Hold each repetition for 10-15 seconds.
  • Rest 10-15 seconds between sets, 30 seconds between exercises.
  • Do this exercise 1-2 times per day.

Bridges with resistance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tie a resistance band around both thighs, just above your knees.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and legs hips width apart.
There should be tension in the band.
Raise your hips up into a bridge, keeping the knees hips width apart.
Control the movement back down to the start position, maintaining constant tension on the band.


Clams with resistance

Lie on your side and place a band above your knees, approximately an inch or two above the knee joint.
Bend your legs a little, keeping the feet in line with your back.
Use your core stability muscles to keep the body stable.
Keeping your feet together, lift the top knee up against the resistance of the band.
Ensure you stay on your side and do not roll your hips and your body back with the movement.
Lower the knee back down, controlling the resistance.


Phase 3 – advance stage

Body weight squats

Start position is standing straight with the arms out in front and bent at the elbows, the fists should be clenched and the palms facing inwards.
Move downwards into a squat position so that the knees are aligned over the toes and the heels are in contact with the floor, make sure the back is straight.
Keep the head and chest upright and the gaze horizontal.
Hold for 2 seconds and return to the start position.


Lunges

Stand straight with your arms to the side or on your hips.
Take a large step forwards on your affected leg, then drop your hips directly down between both feet, bending your hips and knees to a 90 degrees.
Push back up to the starting position, and repeat.
Make sure you take a large enough step that your front knee does not travel over your foot, and ensure your knee travels directly forwards.
Keep your body up straight throughout the movement.


Crab walks

Place a band around your ankles and gather some tension.
Side-step keeping constant tension on the band.
Make sure you do not bring your feet too close together and keep your toes and knees pointing forwards.


Phase 4 – return to activities

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Stretching

Do you always need to stretch the muscle? The answer is NO. While stretching is an important tool to improve muscle elasticity. You may not always need to stretch a muscle if it is NOT tight. Thus, stretching is recommended to be limited to areas you feel are TIGHT when you perform a given movement. Check the affected side and unaffected side – don’t need to stretch a muscle that doesn’t need to be stretched.

Seated piriformis stretch 

Start in a seated position.
Cross the symptomatic leg your ankle is resting on, to the opposite knee.
Apply gentle pressure to the knee as you lean forward, increasing the depth of the stretch.
Hold this position, you should feel a comfortable tension with no pain.


Pigeon stretch

 

Start on your hands and knees.
Cross the symptomatic leg underneath you, then lower your hips down to the ground.
Rest your body forwards on your arms.
You should feel a stretch across the buttock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing your Medial Knee Pain: MCL injuries

What is it?

Although your knee has free movement going forwards and backwards, its’ sideward movements are restricted by the robust collateral ligaments on either sides of your knee. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is situated on the inner part of your knee, but on the outside of your joint. The MCL connects the top of your shinbone (tibia) to the bottom of your femur (thighbone). It helps hold your bones together, provides stability and prevents your knee from bending sideways away from your body.

Injuries to the MCL are from the result of a direct blow to the outer part of your knee- and is most commonly seen in contact sports such as football and soccer. These injures may either over-stretch or cause a tear in the ligament. Whilst surgery may be needed in some severe cases, it is not always the go-to form of management.

Read on to know how physiotherapy can help manage your MCL related-knee pain.

 

 

Mechanism of Injury

Injury to the MCL typically occurs when a force drives the lower leg in a sideward direction away from your upper leg and body. Awkwardly landing from a height, twisting of your knee with your foot fixated to the ground, or from a direct blow to the outer part of your knee- most commonly seen in contact sports, are frequent causes of injury to the MCL.

 

 

Grading of MCL Injuries

MCL injuries are often graded using the system below:

Grade 1: Regarded as a minor injury- means that the MCL has been overstretched but not torn

Grade 2: Regarded as a moderate injury- means that there is a partial tear in MCL, and presents with some degree of instability in the knee

Grade 3: Regarded as a severe injury- means that the MCL has completely ruptured/torn, and presents with noticeable joint instability

 

Often 3 MCL injuries are associated with concurrent medial meniscus and ACL ligament damage, which may need surgical intervention. But, the good news is that most MCL injuries may be treated well with conservative physiotherapy management. It usually takes between 2-8 weeks for Grade 1 and 2 MCL injuries to heal, and a graduated rehabilitation programme is highly commended for prevention of future injury.

 

 

Signs and Symptoms

Because injury to the MCL may present with similar symptoms as with other knee injuries such as ACL damage, it is vital to have a medical professional such as your physiotherapist evaluate your injury.

Common symptoms of an MCL injury may include:

  • Tenderness and pain along in the inner part of your knee
  • Swelling in the knee
  • Experience catching and locking sensations in the knee joint
  • A ‘pop’ sound at the time of injury
  • Actual or feeling of giving way of the knee (often indicate grade 2 or 3 injury)

 

 

Diagnosis

Your physiotherapist will discuss your injury and its presenting symptoms, past medical history (including a history of any prior knee injuries) and will also undertake a thorough physical examination. During the physical examination, your physiotherapist will assess the structures of your injured knee and compare them to the non-injured side. The range of motion, strength and stability of your knee will be assessed. You may be referred on for imaging such as X-rays and Ultrasounds to help aid the diagnosis. For more severe MCL injuries, and if your symptoms do not resolve with conservative physiotherapy management, you may be referred onto a specialist who may consider referring you for an MRI to get a deeper look at your knee.

 

Management

The management options for MCL injuries will be dependent on the severity of the injury. In the initial stages of injury, management is focused on controlling swelling and pain, whilst allowing your body to initiate healing processes via inflammation. This is typically achieved through the P.O.L.I.C.E. principles (Protect, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression and Elevation).

Over the counter medication such as ibuprofen and paracetamol may be taken to reduce pain. Other stronger painkillers and NSAIDs may be prescribed by your doctor to help reduce swelling and inflammation as well.

After assessing your knee, your physiotherapist will frame a rehabilitation programme with exercises tailored to your needs. The purpose of physiotherapy is to help restore your knee’s range of motion, stability and strength, which in turn will then allow you to safely return to your usual day-to-day and sporting activities as soon as possible.

Management of most MCL injuries usually only involves knee bracing and physiotherapy treatment. However, in some cases, surgery may be recommended. Particularly if there is damage to more than one ligament or structure in your knee or if you continue to experience instability in spite of physiotherapy.

Do You Have a Healthy Work Station Set Up?

An ergonomically correct workstation has all the best practices to help maintain a healthy posture and improve your health and productivity.

Here are a few helpful tips;

1. Set up your screen

Adjust the monitor height so that the top of the screen is at—or slightly below—eye level. Your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen. Position the monitor at least 20 inches (51 cm) from your eyes—about an arm’s length distance. If you have a larger screen, add more viewing distance.


2. Set up your chair

  • Height – You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your thighs roughly parallel to the floor. If you require a taller chair in order to reach the floor you can use a foot rest to ensure you achieve the right angle.

  • Backrest Recline and Tilt – Research has shown that a reclined seat (at least 135 degrees back)  significantly reduces the pressure on your back, and is particularity beneficial for people with back

  • Lumbar support – the shape of the backrest should have a natural curve to support your lower back.

  • Arm rests – Look for armrests that are not just height adjustable and support the entire length of the forearms.


3. Adjust your Desk Height

  • Your legs should fit comfortably under the desk if you are sitting with your feet flat on the floor: you should have enough space to cross your legs.

  • The angle between your forearm and upper arm should be between 90 degrees and 110 degrees while your arms are at rest on the desk.

  • Make your desk organized using storage accessories i.e. Document holders

  • Use an ergonomic mouse pad; to keep your wrists supported.


4. Organizing your Desk space

Organize all the items on the workstation according to their priorities and assign them to the proper ergonomic reach zones.

  • Primary Zone: High use items, easiest access

  • Secondary Zone :Medium use items, comfortable reach

  • Third Zone: Low use items, reduction in efficiency

:sparkles: MOVEMENT IS KEY :sparkles:

Its a simple action step, but mighty! Get up out of your chair and take frequent posture breaks!

When we sit in one position for hours without moving, our performance slowly starts to deteriorate, our body slows down, static loading takes over our muscles and we actually get fatigued even when we aren’t putting in any physical effort. However, when you consciously integrate these microbreaks into your day, you’re giving your body a much-needed refresher and an opportunity to wake up your muscles and replenish blood flow. Research has shown that movement can also help with creativity, or get you ‘unstuck’ so you can approach your work with a different or fresh perspective and energy.

If you think your desk set up could be better, or want us to have a quick look we can do this via a video call. Book in for an appointment www.physiofusion.co.nz or give us a call on (09) 626 6186

Disorders of the Achilles Tendon

Basic Anatomy

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human-body. It is a band of tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone (calcaneus). This tendon primarily facilitates general mobility such as walking, running, climbing stairs, jumping, and standing on your tip toes, by helping to raise the heel off the ground.

 

 

Common Achilles Pathology

Achilles tendinitis and tendinosis are two common disorders and are typically classified as overuse injuries.

Achilles tendonitis involves inflammation of the Achilles tendon. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or disease, and often causes swelling, pain, or irritation. This inflammation is typically short-lived. Over time, if this is left resolved, the condition may progress to degeneration of the tendon- Achilles tendinosis, in which case, the tendon loses its organized structure and is likely to develop microscopic tears.

There are two types of Achilles tendonitis and it is based on which part of the tendon is inflamed:

  • Insertional Achilles tendonitis affects the lower portion of your tendon where it attaches to your heel bone.
  • Non-insertional Achilles tendonitis involves fibres in the middle portion of the tendon and tends to affect younger people who are active.

In both non-insertional and insertional Achilles tendinitis, damaged tendon fibres may also calcify (harden) and often bone spurs (extra bone growth) develop with insertional Achilles tendinitis. Achilles tendonitis may also increase your risk of sustaining an Achilles tendon rupture (tear).

Causes

Typically referred to as “overuse” conditions, Achilles tendonitis and tendinosis are often caused by the sudden increase in repetitive activity involving the Achilles tendon. This can put too much stress on the tendon too quickly, that can then lead to micro-injury of the tendon fibres. Because of this ongoing stress on the Achilles, the body is not able to repair the injured tissue. The structure of this tendon is then modified, resulting in continued pain and other symptoms. The Achilles tendon also has poor blood supply that makes it more susceptible to injury and may make recovery from injury slow.

Common factors that may lead to the development of disorders of the Achilles tendon include:

  • Weak and/or tight calf muscles
  • Rapidly increasing the amount or intensity of exercise within a short span of time
  • Hill climbing or stair climbing exercises
  • Presence of bony spurs in the back of your heel
  • Changes in footwear – especially changing from wearing high-heeled shoes to flat shoes
  • Wearing poor fitting, inappropriate, or worn out shoes during sporting activities
  • Exercising without adequate warm-ups and stretching
  • A sudden sharp movement which causes the calf muscles to contract and the stress on the Achilles tendon to be increased. This can cause the tendon fibres to tear.
  • Excessive mobility
  • Poor feet positioning and biomechanics (excessive pronation and flattening of the arches of the foot)

 

Symptoms

Achilles tendon pain: Causes. when to see a doctor, and treatment

 

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness along the Achilles tendon especially first thing in the morning
  • Pain along the tendon or back of the heel that worsens with activity
  • Severe pain the day after exercising
  • Visible thickening of the tendon
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Bone spur
  • Swelling that is present all the time and gets worse throughout the day with activity

If you have experienced a sudden “pop” in the back of your calf or heel, you may have torn your Achilles tendon. Please seek urgent medical attention if you think you may have torn your tendon.

Diagnosis

If Achilles tendonitis or tendinosis is suspected, please deter from any activity or exercise which causes the pain. It is advisable to see your doctor or physiotherapist as soon as possible so that an accurate diagnosis may be made and appropriate treatment recommended.

You will be asked about the nature and duration of your symptoms and the medical professional assessing you will have a look at your foot and ankle. Ultrasound scanning may be used to evaluate the damage to the tendon and/or surrounding structures.

An MRI may be recommended if symptoms persist. X-rays may also be taken to rule out other disorders which may cause symptoms like Achilles tendonitis and tendinosis.

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Treatment

Treatment will depend on the nature, severity, and length of the injury. Generally speaking, the longer the symptoms are present before treatment commences, the longer the timeframe until full recovery is attained.  Full recovery may take between three and nine months.

Initial treatment options in the early stages may include:

  • Rest – to avoid further injury to the area
  • Ice – to reduce inflammation
  • Elevation – to reduce swelling
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation.

 How physiotherapy can help:

Physiotherapy typically focuses on two main areas: treatment and rehabilitation. Treatment may entail massage, shockwave therapy, acupuncture, gait re-education, and gentle stretching, whereas, rehabilitation predominantly entails strengthening of the Achilles and surrounding musculature.

Strengthening of the muscles surrounding the Achilles tendon facilitates healing in the tendon itself. Strengthening is attained through the utilization of specific exercises, that will be taught by your physiotherapist. It is common for the rehabilitation programme to take up to three months.

 

Exercises

 

 

THROWING YOUR SHOULDER PAIN AWAY

What does the shoulder look like inside?

The shoulder is made up of two joints. These are the acromioclavicular joint (collar bone meets shoulder blade) and the glenohumeral joint (upper arm meets shoulder blade). The shoulder is protected by ligaments (joining bone to bone) and muscles known as the rotator cuff. These muscles form tendons (joining muscle to bone) and play a major role is stabilising the shoulder. Under some of these muscles and tendons, there are small fluid filled sacs ((known as bursae) to allow easy gliding of muscles over bone.  The upper arm also joins the shoulder blade with the help of the Labrum (soft tissue around the glenoid cavity). Finally, this is all surrounded by a fluid filled sac which lubricates the shoulder joint for better movement known as the shoulder capsule.

 

History taking and assessment

You can expect questions regarding the history of your shoulder injury from your physiotherapist such as:

  • How the injury happened
  • Where the pain is in your shoulder
  • Whether you have a ‘dead arm’ feeling
  • If you feel a different sensation from the other side or some weakness
  • Aggravating and easing activities
  • Past history and family history of shoulder injuries or pain

Once these questions have been asked and answered, your physiotherapist will proceed to perform an assessment of you and your shoulder. This can range from:

  • Posture assessment
  • Strength and sensation testing
  • Testing of ROM (movement of the shoulder)
  • Special testing to check joint stability, muscle integrity and possible signs of shoulder damage

 

Investigations

Based on your history and examination findings, your clinician will suggest the best possible investigation for you.

In most cases, initial X – rays are done to rule out broken bones.

Ultrasounds can be used to diagnose some ligament and tendon damage such as rotator cuff tears.

MRI is the best form of imaging but this does come at a higher cost and higher exposure to radiation. The MRI scan can identify bone, ligament and tendon injuries in the shoulder.

A CT scan is not usually performed in cases of the shoulder.

 

Possible injuries to the shoulder

Instability:

If you have dislocated your shoulder in the past or continue to experience shoulder dislocations, you may have some instability of the shoulder. Normally you may develop a “dead arm”. You may also feel a sense of heaviness, numbness or an inability to move the arm which persists for a few minutes. If you are experiencing these episodes more frequently with less force, it is advised that you see your healthcare professional.

Treatment:

Non-surgical management involves a period of rest with a parallel shoulder strengthening program for stability. This is done when the injury is acute and non-recurrent.

Surgical management is opted for when there has been damage to the ligament and Labrum as well as ongoing recurrence of shoulder dislocation. Surgery is associated with a reduced rate of recurrence.

 

Rotator cuff:

The four muscles that make up the rotator cuff are Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis. Rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common disorders of the shoulder. It is believed that most of these injuries are caused by overuse of the shoulder. Often heavy lifting, sports involving the shoulder and repetitive shoulder movements are associated with rotator cuff pathology. These injuries cause pain and stiffness with overhead activity (eg: throwing a ball or putting a shirt on) and pain is worse at night. You may also feel some weakness in your injured arm because of pain.

Treatment:

A partial thickness tear in the rotator cuff can heal with non-surgical management. These are managed with physiotherapy exercises, corticosteroid (cortisone) injections and most importantly, time. It is important to know that the pain will improve over time.

A Full thickness tear in the rotator cuff will normally be managed with surgery. This is followed by immobilisation of the arm for up to 6 weeks in a sling. After these 6 weeks, you should begin a physiotherapy program in order to aid your recovery.

Acromioclavicular joint (ACJ):

This is a fairly common injury and normally occurs in athletes involved in contact sport or when falling directly onto the point of the shoulder. You may experience some pain and swelling in the upper shoulder. This pain can sometimes occur with no reason at all and it is important to voice this to your clinician.

Treatment:

You will be treated surgically or non-surgically according to the severity of your injury.

Non-surgical management includes a brief spell of rest and sling use for protection and healing. This is followed by early mobilisation of the shoulder and a subsequent strengthening program. Your physiotherapist can also assist you with taping in order to return to activity.

Surgical management is followed by a physiotherapy program as outlined by the shoulder surgeon. This is normally done for a quicker return to play in contact sports or when pain is severe and a trial non-surgical management has not worked.

Fractures:

These normally occur as a result of direct trauma to the arm such as a fall. They can be very painful and are usually associated with a lot of swelling around the area.

Treatment:

Depending on where and how severe the injury is, the doctor may opt for surgical or non-surgical management.

In either of these cases, you will undergo a period (6 weeks maximum) of immobilisation of the upper limb to allow for healing. At the end of this period, it is important to see your physiotherapist to begin rehabilitation of your arm.

 

What to expect

 

Acute phase:

Immediately following an injury, you should be offered adequate pain relief. A sling can be very effective and can be combined with simple analgesia, anti-inflammatory medications and ice therapy.

Passive range-of-motion (ROM) exercises, including pendulum and active-assisted exercises, should be considered. You will be encouraged to maintain fitness (if comfortable) using a stationary bike or general walking.

 

Early Rehabilitation phase:

When your pain has settled and your ROM has improved to 60-70% of the unaffected side, you can progress with rehabilitation.

Exercises that might be useful in this phase include:

  • Stretch of the shoulder
  • Progressive ROM exercises with the goal of achieving full ROM
  • Strengthening of the rotator cuff and scapular stabilisers

 

 

 

Late Rehabilitation phase:

You will progress to this phase when you have a normal (full and painless) ROM and 75% strength of the unaffected side.

The types of exercises that might be useful in this phase include:

  • Progressive multi-planar exercises
  • The addition of further resistance exercises, including weights and the use of medicine balls and more functional activity
  • Plyometric exercises

        

Return to sport:

When you have a normal range of motion and more than 90% strength of the uninjured side, you can progress to return to sport. This should be done in a gradual manner.

A return-to-sport programme may involve:

  • Initial unopposed training
  • Opposed training in a controlled setting
  • Match practice
  • Return to sport when this full progression has occurred

 

In conclusion:

Your shoulder injury will be treated and tailored to you. With most shoulder injuries, physiotherapy can be helpful in operative and non-operative management.

Early management or rehabilitation of your injury could go a long way in speeding up your recovery process and avoiding re-injury in the future.