When you’ve had surgery on your knee, hip or spine, getting you back on your feet and regaining strength and function is priority number one. And that’s why physical therapy is so important.
Patients usually undergo surgery because they’ve experienced a loss of function and altered their posture or range of motion due to pain or expected pain. The body maintains that altered posture after surgery, and the surgery itself can further alter function, says Brian Vasicek, a physical therapist at the Beaumont Health & Wellness Center in Royal Oak.
“Physical therapy helps patients identify the changes in function and empowers them to work on the deficits for maximum restoration of function,” he says.
Easy does it
Healing damaged and repaired tissue is key after an operation. And it’s important to ease stiffness and restore motion to damaged joints. But it’s also important to ease back into exercise and not overdo it.
For example, there may be times when you need to bend and put a load on a joint to help it recovery after surgery, and others when the same joint should be protected.
“Frequently people do not associate daily movements as exercise,” Vasicek says. “The best way to ease back into exercise is understanding and respecting tissue healing. There are many times when patients will avoid certain motions, or do too much activity, without fully understanding the healing process.”
Avoid any exercises or stretches that cause pain if they’re not being ordered by rehabilitation professional.
What to watch out for
Your doctors will advise you about what precautions to take and things to watch out for after surgery. Vasicek says patients should also watch out for any tasks or motions that leave them unbalanced.
“Patients should watch themselves walking to assess if they are leaning or swinging their legs away from their body,” he says. Not being able to squat without bending at the back would also be a sign you need help exercising from a physical therapist.
Physical therapy regimens are designed to help you continue to make gains in function and strength so that you can carry on with the tasks of daily living. Here’s a good primer, including videos, about what you can expect from therapy following orthopedic surgery.