Post-operative rehabilitation

In case of different injuries or diseases, surgery might be a necessary solution and, depending on the severity, the recovery process takes time. Physical therapy can help the healing process and the recovery after surgery. This is known as post-operative rehabilitation.

Post-operative physical therapy goes through different stages:

  • the inflammation or acute phase immediately after surgery: the body goes through the primary healing process, is possibly immobilized, swelling decreases and pain generated by the trauma of the surgical procedure itself subsides
  • the proliferation/granulation or sub-acute phase: progressively the patient and the physical therapist, together, work to design a constantly updated plan that involves exercises to begin strengthening of the body, restoring the patient’s range of motion, regain stability and motor control
  • the remodelling or chronic phase: over time the patient is able to return to the normal pre-surgical level of physical activity. This is the last and often long lasting area of intervention of the post-operative rehabilitation, making sure that the ability to tolerate the load is progressively restored, taking into strict consideration what the physical activity level of each patient is; whether is resuming an active job or returning full-level on the pitch as a professional athlete

Going through post-operative rehabilitation with a physical therapist drives to a series of advantages for the patient:

  • Regaining mobility as fast as possible
  • Ensuring an higher patient partecipation and compliance
  • Reducing hospitalization time and ensure faster and better final outcome in terms of pain and disability
  • Respecting tissue healing processes ensuring the proper healing and minimizing scar issues proliferation
  • Optimize the progressive exposure to load
  • Going through a structured strenght and conditioning program
  • Beeing instructed on what Home Exercise Program fits best in each phase
  • Ensuring a progressive Return To Run, Return To Partecipation, Return To Sport and full Return To Play after appropriate testing sessions only in order to minimize re-injury risk
  • Increasing patients’ overall health afterwards

Physical therapists use different skills and resources to deliver the benefits of post-operative physical therapy, such as: pain control and management, massage, manual therapy, modalities, gait analysis and training, motor control re-training, balance and coordination specific training, etc.

Physicians also prescribe a period of pre-operative rehabilitation, that basically means physical therapy prior to the operation, in order to help find out more about what the recovery process may end up looking like for you, start some recovery process pre-operatively already and strengthening your body ahead of time. Is scientifically proven that pre-operative rehabilitation statistically drives to quicker recovery and better final outcome.

Knowing what to expect can help you mentally and physically prepare in advance and decide being fully aware of all the implications. A surgical procedure may in fact last a few hours, but physical therapy and recovery time vary for different people and procedures, possibly taking anywhere from a few weeks to close to a year to complete. Consequently speaking, it’s important to discuss with both your doctor and physical therapist before the actual surgery, so that you know what you can expect in terms of recovery time and what the overall experience will look like.