The Importance of Rehabilitation in Injury Recovery
Author: Russell M. Nord, M.D.
Specialty: Orthopaedic Surgery Hospitalist
Whether it happens on the court, on the job or at home, injuries happen.
While there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk for injury
– stretching, listening to your body, and avoiding repetitive movement
– sometimes they can just be attributed to bad luck.
More than an inconvenience, the pain they cause can affect your mobility
and quality of life. That’s why proper rehabilitation of an injury
is so vital to recovery.
What is Rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation, or rehab, is the process that seeks to overcome the physical
effects of injury, illness or surgery and improve function, mobility and
quality of life.
The type of rehab that one may have to undergo depends on one’s injury
and goals. This may mean returning to the soccer field after an ACL surgery,
going back to work after a back injury, or relearning how to speak after
a stroke. While, ideally, rehab aims to return performance to or beyond
your pre-disability level, rehab can also be employed to correct body
mechanics so as to prevent future injury or re-injury.
While your doctor typically manages the coordination of care, the rehab
process really is a team effort. Depending on your injury, you may see
a whole host of specialists during the course of your rehabilitation.
For those with sports-related injuries who come through the Washington
Sports Medicine Program, they may see orthopedic surgeons, physiatrists,
osteopaths, outpatient physical therapists and occupational therapists,
and in-school athletic trainers on their road to recovery.
Components of Rehabilitation
Regardless of your injury, successful injury rehabilitation programs share
Pain Management: Not only is this an important part of overcoming the physical effects of
injury, it’s an important step in mitigating its psychological impact
so that the rehabilitation process may proceed. While this may include
short-term prescription medications, there are also therapies designed
to reduce inflammation and pain that may be employed as well.
Flexibility and Range of Motion (ROM): In addition to the inflammation and swelling that occurs with injury or
surgery, trauma can also affect the biomechanics of your whole body. Stretching
techniques are employed to improve or preserve joint ROM and prevent injury
to other parts of your body that have to work overtime and compensate
for the loss of function of an injured area.
Strength and Endurance: Because rehabilitating an injury can be a prolonged process, athletes
often encounter muscle atrophy and secondary decreases in exercise tolerance,
endurance and power. In addition to the healing properties of cardiovascular
exercise and strengthening, they are also important elements in maintaining
conditioning and aerobic capacity.
Coordination: When ligaments, tendons or joints are immobilized due to injury, your
muscles can forget how to ‘talk” to your joints (called proprioception).
This affects your coordination. Starting with simple activities and increasing
in complexity as rehab progresses, the goal is to perform movements as
precisely and automatically as possible.
Functional Rehabilitation: This final piece of the rehab puzzle involves fine-tuning function so
that pre-injury functions can be performed at a pre-injury level. An athlete
returning to competitive play in game-ready condition or a worker being
able to complete specific tasks or motions to perform their job are a
couple of examples of functional rehabilitation.
Washington Hospital Healthcare System website to learn more about how sports injuries are treated and rehabilitated at the
Washington Sports Medicine Program and the
Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center.
Posted August, 2019
About Russell Nord, MD
Dr. Nord is a fellowship-trained Orthopaedic Surgeon specializing in Sports
Medicine. While his interests focus on the knee, shoulder and hip, he
treats a variety of conditions in both the athlete and non-athlete. Dr.
Nord is a firm believer that often, with the appropriate therapy, the
body is able to heal itself without surgery. However, when surgery is
necessary, Dr. Nord typically elects for an arthroscopic or minimally
invasive technique and uses modern well-proven methods. Dr. Nord completed
his Sports Medicine fellowship at Stanford University where he took care
of Stanford athletes and served as a Team Physician for the Stanford Football
Team. He also provided orthopedic care for the San Francisco 49ers NFL
Prior to joining Stanford, Dr. Nord completed his Orthopaedic Surgery residency
at NYU-Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City, where he was selected
Executive Chief Resident during his final year. Dr. Nord received his
MD degree from Cornell University, where he was elected to the Alpha Omega
Alpha honor society and completed his undergraduate work at Duke University
where he graduated
summa cum laude with membership in Phi Beta Kappa.
Dr. Nord currently serves as Medical Director of the Washington Hospital
Sports Medicine Program. In his free time, Dr. Nord enjoys spending time
with his family, sports, and the outdoors. He is married to Kristin Nord,
a dermatologist, with whom he has four young children.