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What stage of healing takes the longest?

When it comes to healing from an injury, the time it takes can vary greatly depending on the severity and type of injury. However, there is one stage of the healing process that tends to take the longest no matter what the injury – the remodeling phase. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the stages of healing and why remodeling takes the longest.

The Stages of Healing

There are three main stages of healing: inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling. Here’s an overview of what happens during each stage:

Inflammation Stage

This is the initial stage of healing immediately after an injury. It involves:

  • The blood vessels at the injury site dilating and becoming more permeable to allow essential cells and proteins to get to the wound.
  • An influx of blood and fluid, which cause swelling, redness, and heat.
  • White blood cells rushing to the area to fight bacteria and remove debris.

Inflammation usually lasts a few days and is a crucial first response to help begin the healing process.

Proliferation Stage

This is the next stage where new tissues start to form to repair the damage. It involves:

  • Angiogenesis – new blood vessels developing to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the healing area.
  • Fibroblasts producing collagen to create new connective tissue.
  • Epithelial cells regenerating to resurface the wound.

This is the reconstructive phase where the body starts filling in the injury. It usually lasts 1-3 weeks.

Remodeling Stage

This is the longest stage of healing, which involves:

  • The new collagen tissue becoming organized and cross-linked for strength.
  • Any unnecessary cells or materials reabsorbed back into the body.
  • Tissue adapting to regain strength and function.

Remodeling can take from 3 weeks up to 2 years. This is what ultimately determines how closely the healed area will resemble uninjured tissue.

Why Remodeling Takes the Longest

There are a few key reasons why the remodeling stage of healing tends to be the most lengthy:

It’s a Slow Process

Collagen remodeling itself occurs slowly. Collagen fibers formed during proliferation are initially disorganized and weak. Over time, they cross-link to form stronger connections. This allows them to develop enough strength to withstand daily stresses and loads. It’s a gradual process of adapting and aligning tissues until optimal structure and function are achieved.

It Requires Extensive Cellular Activity

Remodeling involves ongoing metabolic activity of cells like fibroblasts to continually rebuild and reform collagen structures. Macrophages are also needed to clear out debris leftover from the injury and inflammation. All of this cellular activity and remodeling of the new matrix tissue takes time.

It Involves Tissue Maturation

For full maturation and strength of healing tissue, remodeling must incorporate cross-linking between collagen fibers and proper orientation of the tissue. Things like the tensile strength and elasticity of the tissue require extensive remodeling to match uninjured tissue. This tissue maturation is very gradual.

The Area May Need Remodeling Multiple Times

Sometimes tissue may not be sufficiently healed after the initial remodeling stage. If the area is re-injured or fails to heal completely, it may need to go through additional rounds of inflammation, proliferation and remodeling until healthy tissue can be restored.

Healing Times for Different Injuries

To understand why remodeling takes the longest, it helps to look at approximate healing times for different types of injuries:

Injury Inflammation Phase Proliferation Phase Remodeling Phase
Minor scrape/scratch 1-2 days 3-5 days 1-2 weeks
Cut or incision 2-3 days 1-2 weeks 3 weeks – 3 months
Burn injury 3-7 days 2-3 weeks 3 months – 2 years
Broken bone 4-7 days 1-2 months 1-2 years
Torn ligament 2-3 weeks 1-2 months 6 months – 1 year

As shown in the table, the remodeling stage takes the longest time to complete for all injury types. Even a minor skin injury can take weeks to remodel the area to match the surrounding tissue and achieve full tensile strength. For major injuries like burns, broken bones, and torn ligaments, remodeling can take many months to years.

Factors That Slow Remodeling

There are some key factors that can delay or impair the remodeling process, causing it take even longer:

Nutritional Deficiencies

Remodeling requires good nutrition to support collagen production and tissue growth. Deficiencies in protein, vitamins C, A, and zinc can impair remodeling.


Younger people tend to remodel tissue faster thanks to good growth factors and blood supply. In older adults, the remodeling capabilities decline.

Diabetes or Smoking

These conditions restrict blood flow which reduces oxygen and nutrients to the injury site, impeding the ability to remodel effectively.


Excess fat tissues produce proteins that lead to chronic inflammation, which can delay the transition from proliferation to remodeling.


If the area sustains repeated injury, it must go through additional inflammation and proliferation phases before remodeling can begin again.

How to Support the Remodeling Process

While remodeling takes time, there are some ways to help support the body through this lengthy stage:

  • Eat a healthy diet rich in protein, vitamins A, C, and zinc to provide nutrients for building new tissue.
  • Stay hydrated and get sufficient sleep to enable your body’s natural healing capabilities.
  • Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol, and processed foods that can impair healing.
  • Use compression, elevation, and rest to minimize re-injury or irritation to the affected area.
  • Follow care instructions from your doctor such as wearing a cast, splint, or using crutches to immobilize the area during remodeling.
  • Complete recommended physical therapy and exercises to strengthen muscles and ligaments in the area.
  • Use topical vitamin E oil or silicone sheets on scars to hydrate and minimize collagen breakdown.


The remodeling stage is the lengthiest phase of healing due to the slow process of collagen remodeling and tissue maturation. However, taking care to reduce re-injury, improve nutrition, and follow all medical advice can help support your body through this critical stage of recovery. While remodeling takes time and patience, the eventual outcome is stronger repaired tissue and restoration of function to the affected area.