If you’re preparing for surgery, don’t forget one of the most important steps- scheduling your post-surgical rehabilitation! Post-surgical rehab is vital to helping you regain your strength, balance, flexibility, and function. This will ensure your success and help to expedite your recovery time after surgery.
Why do I need Rehab After Surgery?
Whether you have recently had heart surgery, a joint replacement, or reconstructive surgery on a part of your body, surgery is traumatic on the body. Skin is cut, muscles and organs are moved, joints are manipulated, tendons and ligaments are sewn, the list goes on and on. Once that surgery is complete, your body immediately begins the process of healing itself, however, you may not have the same ability to stand, walk, dress, and care for yourself that you did before. The goal of any physical therapy rehab program is to:
- Reduce pain
- Strengthen your muscles
- Improve range of motion and movement
- Help you walk again
- Teach you how to do daily activities, such as get up from a chair, climb stairs and get in and out of a car
What to Expect From Post-Surgical Rehab with a Physical Therapist
Your surgeon has spent years learning how to mechanically repair problems throughout your body. However, they are limited in their ability to help you regain your function. Physical therapists are movement experts who can both diagnose problems and assist you in your recovery. When led by a physical therapist, post-surgical rehab uses a variety of exercises and treatments to help limit the amount of pain you are experiencing while increasing strength, balance, range of motion and quality of movement.
First, your physical therapist will evaluate your surgical site and current abilities based on the type of surgery you had. Using this information, they will then create a customized recovery plan designed to meet your unique post-surgical needs.
Your post-surgical rehab plan may include:
- Manual Therapy to improve mobility in your joints and soft tissues
- Targeted exercises to improve movement and increase overall physical endurance
- Ultrasound to break up scar tissue
- Aquatic therapy that offers resistance without stress on joints.
- Ice, heat and TENS to limit inflammation and reduce pain levels
Periodically during the rehabilitation process, your physical therapist will evaluate your progress and make adjustments to your treatment plan to maximize both your time and your potential for improvement.
Once you have completed your physical therapy rehabilitation program, you will be discharged with instructions on ways to continue to build strength and endurance. This may include exercises for continued strength and mobility, suggestions for diet and exercise programs that will improve endurance, or information on group fitness classes that will help continue your therapeutic process.
Recovery Takes Time
Typically, regardless of the surgical procedure, you go from pre-op to the recovery room in just a few hours. Once you are cleared for activity, rehab after surgery can take months or even up to a year. Recovery is complex and dependent on several factors, some of which are beyond your control. You may strictly adhere to your physical therapy schedule and exercises but your body’s natural healing process may be slowed by diet, age, other medical conditions, or your pre-surgical wellness. Regardless of how long it takes, it is important to remember that post-surgical rehab is a complex, progressive process. Patience and consistency are the key while you allow your body do the work of healing.
An Ounce of Prevention
Recent studies have shown that post-surgical physical therapy rehabilitation is even more effective when patients participate in something called pre-surgical physical therapy. Your surgeon may prescribe such measures in order to strengthen your body and prepare you for your procedures. Even two or three sessions have been proven to improve circulation, speed wound healing, reduce the number of pain patients experience after surgery, and speed the post-surgical rehab process.