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Load vs. Capacity

Musculoskeletal injury, whether sudden or from repetitive use, often boils down to the imbalance between load and capacity.  Many factors play a role in an individual’s experience of pain, but when we think about musculoskeletal injury on the level of the tissue, we can just about always see that load/demand has exceeded the capacity of the injured tissue.

Many patients that I explain this to understand this concept with regard to how their injury happened.  Unfortunately, we often lose sight of this important concept when we are trying to recover from injury.  Whether a patient’s body is working through an acute injury response or dealing with multiple reaggravations over a longer period of time, this principle must be considered.  Our bodies are truly amazing and immediately work to heal significant tissue trauma due to injury or surgery, provided we allow them to do so!  Much of what must initially be done to assist a patient in their recovery from injury is to help them stay out of the way of their body’s natural healing response.  We do not need to think about healing our body—this response is automatic.  But we do need to think about the ways which we might be sabotaging this process or delaying it.

When recovering from injury, whether acute or chronic, consider whether or not the load (or demand we place on our body) is exceeding the capacity.  Reaggravation of an injury is a sure sign that tissue resilience is not yet at a level where it can manage the current load or demand you are placing on it. In order for an injury to heal, we must create an opening in which our body can begin the repair of the damaged tissue.  Then, and only then, can we begin the process of gradual exposure and progression to reestablish tissue resilience.   There is no timeline or treatment fad that can speed up your recovery from injury if your body’s timeline has been overlooked or ignored.

For help applying this concept to an injury, or for help with a safe progression of activity after injury please contact Omaha Physical Therapy InstituteHOW you heal after injury matters and this is where the guidance of a physical therapist can help you through your recovery and get you back to the activities you love most!

Matt Vetter, PT, DPT, CSCS


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