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We may not always realize it, but any kind of major surgery is a big deal. It can leave patients weak, immobilized, in pain, and sometimes depressed. Everyone’s goal is to recover quickly and completely, so that they can get back to the meaningful activities they love. More and more, doctors and patients are realizing that physical therapy is one of the most important parts of a healthy and successful outcome after surgery.

What Are The Benefits Of Physical Therapy After Surgery?

The benefits of physical therapy after surgery are increasingly backed up by scientific studies. Getting patients moving is key to a healthy recovery. Physical therapy helps patients regain mobility and recover faster, and it ensures that any replacements or repairs made during surgery heal properly.  Physical therapy is also an excellent option for managing pain and helps many patients avoid or limit opioid medications.

Getting Moving After Surgery Is Key

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study specifically looking at seniors showed that lack of movement after surgery causes loss of function, muscle weakness, and increases postoperative complications. When patients stay in bed following surgery, they lose muscle strength and heart and lung capacity because of a lack of physical activity. One of the best solutions to this problem is a carefully planned and supervised physical therapy program.

Physical therapy helps patients regain strength and return to daily activity sooner by pushing them to move in a safe environment with the assistance of trained professionals. In the case of seniors, this can help them stay independent and even live longer, the NIH study said.

Physical therapy also helps patients manage pain safely, without turning to opioids. And physical activity can have a positive effect on patients’ emotional and psychological state. Exercise does, after all, release endorphins that help create a sense of well being while enhancing your overall mood.

Who Are Candidates For Post-Surgery Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a post-surgery boost following many procedures, including:

  • Joint replacement surgery: For knee, hip and shoulder replacement surgeries, the NIH recommends early and intense physical therapy tailored to the patient’s needs under the supervision of a trained therapist. This helps patients regain mobility faster and get back to their routine.
  • ACL and Meniscus repair: Physical therapy is a must following repair to the ACL knee ligament (often a problem for athletes) along with tears to the meniscal cartilage. Studies show that patients can heal faster and avoid re-injury by building quadriceps and hamstring strength.
  • Back surgery: Because of the especially delicate nature of a spinal fusion or disk surgery, this is one case where supervised physical therapy is essential. Your therapist will help you with gentle stretches and exercises to get the blood flowing and gradually work up to daily activities.
  • Heart attack/bypass surgery: Physical therapy can prevent cardiopulmonary complications by giving patients a safe opportunity to move. The ability to get supervised low-impact, gradual exercise improves health and can reduce the length of the patient’s hospital stay.

What Should I Expect From Physical Therapy After Surgery?

Most doctors are now recommending that physical therapy start immediately after surgery. You’ll begin with simple exercises involving flexing and stretching and move on to more intense exercise as you recover. Part of your therapist’s job is to safely push you to make progress even when you don’t think you can! Some of the most common types of physical therapy techniques include:

  • Range of motion exercises including knee extensions, moving from sitting to standing and circling joints
  • Strengthening exercises including leg raises, hamstring and quadriceps contractions, squats using a chair
  • Stretching exercises in both a seated and standing position
  • Walking and other low-impact cardiovascular exercises, including using an exercise bike. Sometimes after major surgery, just taking a few steps is a big deal, and the sense of accomplishment patients feel as they progress goes a long way in moving recovery forward.

Finding The Right Practice

The NIH study confirms that high-quality physical therapy is an essential part of recovering from surgery. It will help you heal faster and get you back to all the important activities that are necessary for daily life. The experts also highlight that finding the right therapy team, who will help you transition from bed to full function, is critical.

The physical therapy services at Doctors United are available to anyone, whether you are an orthopaedic patient of ours or not. We offer a wide range of proven and highly specialized PT techniques to treat a variety of injuries. To find out more about your particular condition and treatment options, make an appointment today with one of our doctors or physician assistants.

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