If you’re about to have orthopedic surgery, it’s important to consider the physical therapy you will need afterward. Without it, you may not heal as quickly or as completely as you should. Although you’ll be that much closer to recovery when you finally have the surgery, it is not the last step. Physical therapy helps you regain your mobility, activity, and strength while reducing your pain. It also helps to prevent potentially-dangerous bed sores and blood clots.
Do Some Preparation Before Your Surgery
Talk with Your Surgeon
A few weeks before your surgery, talk with your surgeon. Find out what you can expect from the procedure and what type of temporary pain and loss of mobility you will endure. Ask your surgeon if he can recommend a physical therapist for you. This way, you can meet with him or her to measure your current level of strength and range of motion as a baseline. Establishing a rapport with a physical therapist ahead of time can help you learn more about the process and how he or she can help you reach your post-surgery goals.
Call Your Insurance Company
Call your insurance company before your surgery. This way, you can find out how many sessions of physical therapy they will cover. (After all, you don’t want to find out mid-way through your 10th session that your plan only pays for 5.)
How Physical Therapy Helps Your Recovery after Surgery
- Relieves pain without medication
- Improves your strength, flexibility, and range of motion
- Boosts your endurance and stamina
- Breaks up scar tissue
- Prevents stroke*
* According to studies, patients who have had kidney or blood pressure problems may be at increased risk for a stroke due to the formation of blood clots. Gentle manipulation exercises help improve your circulation and reduce this risk.
What You Can Expect During a Physical Therapy Session
Your physical therapist will gently manipulate the limb near the site of the surgery to improve range of motion and encourage strength and flexibility.
Strengthening and flexibility exercises
Where applicable, your physical therapist may have you use exercise equipment or a pool to further your rehabilitation.
Balance and coordination training
Depending on the type of surgery you have, you may also benefit from balance and coordination training to retrain your senses and regain your independence.
Alternating hot and cold therapy
Hot and cold therapy helps reduce inflammation and swelling, while improving circulation so your body can better heal itself.
Electrotherapy with a TENS unit can help override the pain signals sent to your brain during the course of your rehabilitation.
Exercise instruction to be used at home
When you work with a physical therapist, he or she will give you a feeling of empowerment by giving you safe exercises to continue your therapy at home.
If You’re Tempted to Skip Physical Therapy
When you’re tired and recovering from surgery, it can sometimes be tempting to skip physical therapy but that’s highly inadvisable. Without this added step, scar tissue will form along the injury site and could cause permanent loss of range of motion.
A physical therapist won’t just help you exercise, he or she give you a thorough and supported education about which exercises will work best for your individual needs and why.
Written by: Jaime Heidel, FizzNiche Staff Writer