Why Post-operative Physiotherapy Is So Important

Surgical procedures are incredibly common, with orthopaedic surgeries being frequently carried out, especially for those who play sport. In fact, global orthopaedic surgeries are sitting at 28.3 million per year!1

Some of the well-known orthopaedic operations include knee arthroscopy, repairs to various ligaments, repairs to the meniscus in the knee, tendon reconstruction, repairs to the shoulder rotator cuff, and total joint replacement of the knee or hip.

If you have undergone orthopaedic surgery yourself, or you know someone who has, then you will already understand that physiotherapy is a critical part of post-operative treatment and rehabilitation.

Post-operative Physiotherapy in Hospital

It is usual for a physiotherapist to pay you a visit while you are still in hospital following surgery. You will receive detailed information about your recovery and how to manage once you get home. Some of the support you may receive includes:

  • A range of exercises you can complete safely while you are recovering.
  • Provision of assistance devices such as crutches or a brace and information on how to use and modify them.
  • Education on how to use the assistance devices and how they will help you gain independence with things like mobility and using the bathroom.
  • Information on the activities that are ok to continue and those which you should avoid, and for how long.

Benefits of Post-operative Physio

Once you are deemed fit to leave the hospital and have the assistance devices and specialist supports in place to help you, the real work towards recovery begins when you get home. It can take a lot of hard work and possibly several months to have your body moving well and back to top form.

The dedicated team of physios at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy are experienced in post-op care and will work tirelessly to give you the best treatment, focusing on the following:

Pain Control

Initially you should have enough pain medication for a few days at home but after that it may be difficult to manage the pain. This may not seem an obvious role for a physiotherapist, but they can help with pain control using techniques such as gentle range of motion exercises, soft tissue mobilisation, cognitive behavioural therapy and others. These techniques can help reduce pain and also limit the chance of chronic pain occurring.

Modification of Activities

A large part of physio rehab is keeping the body moving; however, it is really important to allow the operation site to rest and recover at a gradual pace. So, your physio will explain and show you different ways to undertake everyday activities while protecting your operated site. This will be things like getting dressed, going to the bathroom and getting in and out of a car. This is where special assistance equipment can be very useful.

Body Strengthening

Improving the strength of the affected part of the body is crucial to a good recovery and your physio should consult regularly with your doctor to ensure they are working collaboratively. Muscle loss and atrophy will occur following surgery and can lead to muscle imbalances that in turn can affect walking gait and other movement. While the focus is on the operated area, all global muscle groups will be worked on for overall stabilisation and to help prevent further injury.

Improving Range of Motion

It can sometimes be tricky to return to your previous range of motion, particularly on your own, so physios are incredibly important for this aspect too. To use an example, a full knee replacement can be stiff and painful, so the patient is likely not too keen on bending the knee and working on the range of motion. A sports physiotherapist can provide guidance and reassurance about what is safe and will work slowly on increasing the exercises.

Balance & Proprioception

After joint surgery there may be decreased proprioception, which is the sense that lets us perceive the location and action of parts of the body. Some of the mechanoreceptors that are responsible for proprioception may be removed during the surgical procedure and need to be regenerated. This can take 3 to 6 months and is a further reason why post-operative physio is vital.

Preventing Re-Injury

Injuries and surgery can increase the chance of re-injuring the same site, but with good post-op physiotherapy to improve the strength, stability, motion, proprioception and technique, there is less chance of this occurring. Your physio will provide advice on how to minimise injuries overall.

Boosting Confidence

While it is not an initial focus of post-op rehab, it is worth noting that your confidence can take a hit during this tumultuous part of your life. As your physio treatment progresses, it will give you the confidence that your body is strong and healthy enough to handle the activities you need to do to once again participate fully in life.

Injuries and surgery is a significant thing to have to deal with and post-operative physiotherapy is an essential part of any orthopaedic surgical procedure. While it can be difficult, recovery with the expert support of a physio is much more beneficial and comforting than trying to tackle it alone.

Call the highly experienced physios at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy for a chat, or book online, to get on the road to recovery as soon as possible. Other than post-operative physiotherapy, they are also specialised in physio for back pain, ankle sprain physiotherapy, and much more.

Your body can handle a lot and your physio will help greatly with the rest.


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