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Acute: Early onset of symptoms, the maturation phase has not begun. They are generally in the inflammatory or fibroblastic stage of healing, maybe early maturation. They they will likely heal well on their own with proper patient education if the condition was macro-traumatic and the injury was not a Grade III lesion involving severe tissue damage. Your goal is to help the patient move gracefully through the stages of healing and decrease the complications of inactivity.
Chronic: This patient has had symptoms > 6 weeks, often much longer and is PRIMARILY in the maturation and/or degenerative stage of healing. This patient may have perpetual microtrauma leading to the chronicity, which is often amenable to therapy. AND/OR they have have intrinisic factors that may be slowing their healing potential (smoking, immunosuppression, poor diet), etc that are not amenable to physical therapy. Thirdly, they may have substantial tissue damage (likely late in the degenerative cascade or a traumatic rupture…Grade III) which is being adequately addressed but has limited ability to improve. This patient should be primarily receiving education for prevention, and is generally on their way to discharge once their NPIP have been adequately addressed.
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