What to expect after surgery and the importance of rehabilitation

Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas Physical Therapist at AHS

The need for surgeries is something that will always be constant. However, the way that we recover from them is constantly changing. A decade ago, bedrest and limited activity after orthopedic surgeries was the norm. However, through the advancement of technology and the abundance of therapeutic resources at our fingertips the game has changed. Studies show that physical therapy in conjunction with a prescribed home exercise program increases the speed and likelihood of a full recovery.

A close friend of mine had the unfortunate experience of tearing her ACL twice. First her left, then her right 2 years later. Her first recovery took a lot longer than expected. Her surgeon did not give much guidance on what to expect and told her to start physical therapy 2 weeks post op. In all likelihood this allowed her knee to stiffen back up and getting flexibility back took a very long time. After the second surgery, she started therapy the next day. In two weeks time, she had the same range of motion that took her several months with the previous injury. What causes such a drastic difference between immediate therapy, delayed therapy or no therapy at all? Multiple factors contribute to this. One of the main reasons is the improved circulation with increased immediate mobilization. A therapist will be able to stretch you safely within the surgical protocol guidelines. Depending on the surgery you may not be allowed to move your injured body part yourself. A therapist will move your healing limb for you to allow mobility without damaging healing tissues. They will also create an at home exercise program tailored to your surgery and your body’s capabilities. Things to know after orthopedic surgeries are: pain is normal, swelling is normal and bruising is normal. Depending on where your surgery was, nerve pain is also normal. It is not uncommon for you to have some numbness after surgery due to anesthesia as well as nerve fibers recovering as well. Nerve pain and sensation may develop as well, this is also expected though it might feel unusual. What might be cause for concern: an unsual increase in swelling, redness and warmth around the surgical site. This could be a sign of infection or a Blood clot. Contact your orthopedic surgeon immediately if your wound opens or you have any other signs of infection mentioned above. Another advantage of having physical therapy is having access to a healthcare professional looking at your injured area and being aware of your symptoms. Here at Allied Health solutions we are well versed in post surgical protocols and will be a great resource as your therapy team.


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