One of the most frequent questions physical therapists are asked is “How long is this injury going to take to heal?”
To answer this, you need to realize what tissue you are dealing with. We are all made up of multiple different tissues such as bone, tendon, muscle and ligaments. These tissues all heal at different rates. Therefore, the time a rotator cuff repair (tendon) versus a broken bone takes to heal will vary. In general, bone takes 12 weeks, muscle six weeks up to six months, ligament and tendon 40 to 50 weeks to return to approximately normal strength.
So what can be done to speed these times up? Unfortunately, the simple answer is not much, with the exception of participating in physical therapy. We can slow the recovery time through some of our personal choices, such as uncontrolled diabetes, smoking and alcohol use. All three of these things affect the healing process negatively and lengthen the healing process.
The risk of re-injury is elevated during the healing process, which is why restrictions on weight bearing and range of motion that are ordered by the healthcare provider are important to follow.
To sum it all up, it is hard to make the damaged tissue heal any faster than what naturally will occur, but there are plenty of things you can do to slow it down or worse yet, re-injure. This is why we have specific protocols we follow in the therapy world and encourage people to make healthy decisions, especially when rehabbing from an injury or surgery.