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When Should You Receive Physical Therapy After Surgery

When undergoing extensive surgery, the recovery time can be an uphill battle while your body recuperates and heals. No matter how big or small the surgery is, like hip surgery or a knee replacement, it can be stressful, especially since you need to take time off work to let the body rest and do its job to heal. You may be wondering what else you can do to speed up the recovery time. Physical therapy can be a beneficial addition to plan for after surgery to speed up the recovery time. Getting physical therapy after your surgery as soon as day one is found to be quite beneficial for patients.


 Average Timeline After Surgery

After surgery, it’s crucial to follow a structured recovery plan in different time increments to optimize healing and regain functionality. Immediately following surgery (3 to 7 days), you should focus on rest during the initial days to allow your body to heal. To manage pain follow prescribed pain management strategies and medications as directed by your healthcare provider. To manage the wound site, follow the guidelines of wound care instructions to prevent infections and ensure proper healing. Lastly, engage in gentle movements as recommended by your healthcare provider to prevent stiffness.

For the first few weeks to a month (2 weeks to 1 Month), physical therapy should begin. Gradually reintroduce light activities as advised by your healthcare team. To ensure the process and treatment plan your physical therapist recommended is working, attend follow-up appointments with your surgeon to monitor progress and address any other concerns you may have. Consult with your healthcare provider to adjust pain medications based on your evolving needs.

In one to three months post-surgery, Increase the intensity and complexity of physical therapy exercises to improve strength and flexibility. Always consult with your physical therapist to make sure you don’t worsen your condition and to assist you with new regimens. During this timeframe, you can begin a gradual return to daily activities and continue to avoid high-impact or strenuous tasks.Be sure to keep track of pain levels and report any unusual symptoms to your healthcare provider. Collaborate with your healthcare team to review and modify your overall treatment plan.

Three to six months after surgery, continue with advanced physical therapy to enhance strength, endurance, and functional abilities. Gradually return to work or normal daily activities, guided by your healthcare provider’s recommendations. You can continue to make necessary lifestyle adjustments to accommodate ongoing recovery needs. Discuss long-term care planning and any potential restrictions or modifications to your routine.

After six months, focus on maintaining the gains achieved in physical therapy and preventing future injuries. Schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare team to monitor long-term recovery and address any concerns. Continue to optimize your lifestyle, incorporating regular exercise and healthy habits to support overall well-being. It is important to note that this varies depending on the surgery you have and to always consult with a trained professional before making any important decisions. 


Physical Therapy After ACL Surgery

Among knee injuries, the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is the most prevalent, constituting almost 50% of all cases. After undergoing ACL surgery, you should start physical therapy as soon as possible, preferably within the first week or two. The primary objective of physical therapy is to restore strength, flexibility, and function to the knee joint. ACL surgery involves the reconstruction of a vital ligament in the knee, and physical therapy plays a pivotal role in preventing muscle atrophy, improving range of motion, and enhancing overall joint stability. The tailored exercises prescribed by a physical therapist typically gradually increase the intensity and complexity, which allows the patient to regain normal movement patterns and build strength in the affected leg. 

Physical Therapy After Meniscus Surgery

Meniscus injuries often result from sports activities involving sudden twists, stops, or impacts, particularly in sports like soccer and basketball. Degenerative changes with age and everyday activities that exert excessive force on the knee can also contribute to meniscus tears which leads to needing surgery. Following meniscus surgery, physical therapy should begin within a few days or two weeks, depending on the individual’s specific case. The necessity for physical therapy lies in its role in restoring strength, mobility, and functionality to the knee joint. Meniscus surgery aims to address damage to the cartilage in the knee, and physical therapy is important in preventing muscle atrophy, improving range of motion, and promoting overall joint stability. Throughout the recovery process, physical therapy serves as a guiding and supportive element, assisting individuals in overcoming post-surgery challenges and facilitating a smooth return to regular activities.


Physical Therapy After Back Surgery

Back surgery involves various procedures aimed at addressing issues within the spine, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or deformities. The specific type of surgery depends on the nature of the spinal condition, ranging from discectomies to spinal fusions. Post-surgery, patients often undergo physical therapy to manage pain, strengthen muscles, and regain mobility. It is recommended to start a physical therapy program after four to six weeks of the surgery. Before starting the program, the physical therapist will conduct an assessment to make sure the patient is ready to begin. The therapist will assess scar tissue to confirm that it does not impede the range of motion. They will conduct a neurological screening to test reflexes and evaluate the flexibility of different muscle groups, such as hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles. After the assessment, implement a personalized workout plan to help ensure recovery goals. 


Physical Therapy After Rotator Cuff Surgery

Rotator cuff surgery is a medical intervention aimed at repairing damage to the group of tendons and muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint. Surgeons may perform this procedure to address conditions like tears, inflammation, or degeneration of the rotator cuff. About seven to ten days after surgery patients will undergo a physical therapy program to restore shoulder function, alleviate pain, and promote a successful recovery. During the recovery process, physical therapy can last up to twelve weeks. In the first six weeks, physical therapists focus on slowly working on the patient’s range of motion. After the six-week mark, patients often show large progress and begin to regain their regular lifestyle. At weeks seven and eight patients are gaining muscle back and by week twelve, patients can return to their daily activities. Physical therapy helps address stiffness, weakness, and reduced range of motion by providing targeted exercises and interventions to restore shoulder mobility, strengthen the muscles around the rotator cuff, and improve overall function. For an effective recovery, it is important to begin a physical therapy program. 


Benefits of Physical Therapy After Surgery

Physical therapy is crucial in helping individuals recover from surgery operations. 


Pain Management

Physical therapy can help alleviate pain through targeted exercises, manual techniques, and modalities designed to reduce discomfort associated with various conditions or injuries.


Improved Mobility and Range of Motion

Physical therapists work to enhance flexibility and range of motion in joints, muscles, and connective tissues, promoting improved movement and functionality.


Muscle Strength and Endurance

Tailored exercise programs in physical therapy aim to strengthen muscles, preventing atrophy and improving overall physical strength and endurance.


Injury Prevention

By identifying and addressing weaknesses or imbalances, physical therapy helps individuals reduce the risk of future injuries through targeted exercises and education on proper body mechanics.


Skipping Physical Therapy After Surgery

If you choose to skip physical therapy after surgery, several negative consequences may arise. Without targeted rehabilitation, the affected muscles and joints may experience prolonged stiffness and weakness, significantly losing function. There is also a risk of complications such as muscle atrophy, joint stiffness, and decreased range of motion, hindering the overall recovery process and long-term success of the surgery. Physical therapy is integral in optimizing postoperative outcomes, and neglecting it may impede the restoration of normal function and quality of life.