Preparing for surgery can sometimes feel like running a mental marathon. You have so many questions about what to expect, what your recovery will be like, etc. And of course, there is no guarantee with surgery. Everyone hopes that they have a good outcome, but there is no 100% guarantee that your spine surgery, knee surgery or ankle surgery will fix everything completely back to normal.
Fortunately, there is something you can do to help improve your odds of finding lasting relief after surgery: pre- and post-surgical physical therapy.
Most people think of physical therapy as an option after surgery to help rehabilitate the injured area of their body. However, pre-surgical physical therapy has been shown to help improve surgical results. A recent study published in the National Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine showed that patients who underwent pre-surgical physical therapy showed a marked improvement in key outcomes and recovery following a total knee arthroplasty surgery compared to patients who did not do physical therapy in preparation for surgery.
What Is Pre-Surgical Physical Therapy?
Pre-surgical physical therapy is treatment specifically to help your body prepare for your upcoming surgery. Let’s use knee surgery as an example.
There are several ways that a physical therapist can help you get ready for your upcoming surgery so you can experience the best results possible. Some of those ways include:
- Strengthening the muscles around the damaged joint — Again, in the case of knee surgery, your physical therapist can help you build the muscles around your knee to relieve pressure on the damaged joint. This will help reduce your risk of future injury, as well as make your post-surgical rehabilitation just a little bit easier. The more your muscles can help support the joint, the better the outcome of surgery in the long haul.
- Improve mechanics and posture — Physical therapy before surgery can help you understand more ergonomically appropriate ways to move your body, so you don’t undo the work done during surgery. Knee surgery isn’t going to help you in the long run if you don’t actually change any of your behaviors. Physical therapy can help you understand how to move your body properly and build the right muscles to support your joints, so you can reduce your risk of damaging your joints again post-surgery.
- Mentally prepare for the upcoming surgery — Your physical therapist can help you mentally prepare for your upcoming surgery by answering questions that you have about your recovery time and helping you make a treatment game plan of how to get you back on your feet once your surgery is completed.
Pre-surgical physical therapy is proven to improve the outcomes of orthopedic surgery compared to patients who do not seek PT treatment prior to their operation. The best outcomes, however, occur when pre-surgical physical therapy is coupled with post-surgical physical therapy.
What Is Post-Surgical Physical Therapy?
Post-surgical physical therapy is a much more familiar concept for people than pre-surgical. It’s expected that after an orthopedic surgery, you will be required to undergo some sort of rehabilitative treatment, typically in an outpatient setting, e.g., physical therapy.
The purpose of post-surgical physical therapy is to help you recover from surgery, but also to help prevent the same damage from occurring to your body again. Unfortunately, many people don’t take post-surgical rehab seriously, and they end up still experiencing aches and pains long after their operation is complete.
Think of it like this: If you have surgery to remove excess fat from your body, but you don’t actually change any lifestyle behaviors after your surgery, then chances are you’re going to gain all that weight back. And you’ll probably be even more frustrated the second time because you could have fixed the problem before if you chose to make some lifestyle changes.
The same is true of post-surgical physical therapy. You can have surgery to fix your knee or back (or any other body part), but if you don’t make some lifestyle adjustments to strengthen and protect that area of the body, then you may end up back in the same situation you were in before surgery.
Post-surgical physical therapy aims to accomplish the following goals for your recovery:
- Increase range of motion and mobility in the surgical area
- Reduce pain and swelling post-surgery
- Strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint to help prevent future damage
- Adjust body mechanics to help reduce the risk of future damage to the joint
- Shorten your recovery time so you can get back to the activities you enjoy
Post-surgical rehab is a critical part of your recovery process. If you have an upcoming surgery, you should take advantage of the treatments available to you and do all that you can to ensure the best long-term outcome possible. Contact our team today to schedule an appointment or visit our locations page to find a clinic near you.
Whether pre- or post-surgery, we are here to help you get back on your feet and back to the hobbies you love as quickly as possible.