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  • Writer's pictureMark Austin

The Goldilocks Approach to Healing: Understanding Graduated Loading

Understanding Graduated Loading in Your Recovery

Graduated loading is a pivotal concept in physical therapy, particularly in the realm of tissue healing and active rehabilitation. It refers to the controlled, systematic, and progressive increase in the stress placed on healing tissues during rehabilitation. This approach is instrumental in helping individuals regain strength, function, and mobility after injuries or surgeries.

Tissues in our body, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones, respond to mechanical stress. When we exercise, we essentially impose stress on these tissues, causing them to adapt and become stronger. However, when an injury occurs, these tissues can become weakened, and require a carefully calibrated stress management strategy to heal optimally and regain their former strength. This is where the concept of graduated loading comes in.

Graduated loading is based on the principle that the human body adapts to the demands placed upon it. Thus, by gradually increasing the stress put on the healing tissues, but so much that we aggravate the injury, we can promote adaptation and facilitate a healthy and robust recovery. This is done by modifying factors such as the weight lifted, the number of repetitions, the speed of movement, or the frequency of exercise sessions.

It's like a 'Goldilocks' approach - not too much, not too little, but just right. We'll modify the weight you're lifting, the speed of movement, or the number of repetitions based on your comfort, functionality, and injury stage.

When doing your exercises in this way, some discomfort might be expected, but sharp or persistent pain can indicate too much stress. Always remember that it's essential to listen to your body and communicate to your physio about any discomfort you're experiencing.

Graduated loading isn't a quick fix to make your pain go away in the moment, but a long-term strategy for getting your tissues to heal stronger and more resilient than before, and more lasting pain relief. You're not just aiding your tissue healing, but also helping your body become resilient against future injuries. By understanding and embracing this process, you're playing an active role in your recovery.

During your sessions at physiobox, we'll design and supervise your program, educate you about your injury and recovery, and encourage you to stay tuned into your body. It's a partnership with a shared goal - your optimal healing and rehabilitation. Remember, your journey to recovery is just as important as the destination.


In Calgary and looking to recover from an injury or chronic pain? Book in here to get back to feeling and moving better for the long-term. Online appointments are available to all residents within Alberta.



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