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Post-Surgical Rehab

Rehabilitation is a big part of recovering after having surgery.

It’s important to understand that post-surgical rehab is a long process. While surgery can be done within a few hours, rehabilitation may take many months and even up to a year. And while the actual timeframe for recovery depends on many factors, it’s important that you are totally committed to the process.

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Why You Need Rehab After Surgery

Keep in mind that post-surgical rehab is a progressive activity. For example, workloads on a repaired joint are done gradually. It’s a complex process that’s a bit like baking bread. You’ve got to wait for the dough to rise before you put it in the oven. It’s the same with recovering from surgery. You have to wait sometime to help the biological process do its work.


After surgery, you’ll need rehab to get your strength back. With the help of a physical therapist and other specialists, you’ll be better able to improve body movement. You’ll learn the safest ways to walk, get dressed, bathe and more. Whether you’ve had heart surgery, joint replacement or another type of surgery, rehab will help you get back to your regular routine much faster. The key goals of any rehab program are to:


Physical therapy utilizes a wide variety of treatments and physical exercises to begin the rehab process. A physical therapist will evaluate you to determine muscle strength, the range of motion, body mechanics, quality of movement and postural alignment. After an evaluation, a physical therapist will create a personalized plan of care designed to meet your post-surgical needs for recovery.


Post-Surgical Rehab with a Physical Therapist

Physical therapists use a variety of defined hands-on techniques, known as manual therapy, to improve mobility in joints and soft tissues. Specific exercises are prescribed to improve movement. Other therapeutic modalities include ultrasound, heat, ice and TENS.

Physical therapists are properly trained to perform these modalities for their patients. Aquatic therapy may also be performed by a physical therapist in a heated pool.

This allows post-surgical patients to tolerate more exercises. Strengthening exercise stretches, and light aerobic activities can also be performed in a pool during aquatic therapy.

The most common reason doctors prescribe physical therapy after surgery is to make sure that your body heals properly from your operation. This could be to minimize scar tissue after arthroscopy on your knee or shoulder or to retrain your muscles after major surgery, like repairing an ACL tear.

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Keep in mind

that your surgeon’s specialty is to diagnose and repair an injury, while physical therapists are musculoskeletal experts that are there to help improve the way you feel and function. Many doctors will also send you a few sessions of physical therapy before your operation.

This will help to strengthen your body as much as possible. In addition, talking to your PT about what lies ahead, including the length of rehabilitation and what levels of pain to expect during your recovery, can be a huge help when approaching your postoperative period. In fact, a recent study showed that back patients who had just one pre-op session with a physical therapist had a much smoother post-op experience.