Undergoing surgery, especially orthopedic surgery, can be a daunting endeavor. What's interesting is that no matter what type of surgery you're scheduled to have, your emotions are probably all over the place. You might experience nervousness, excitement, anxiety, fear or even contentment. What's even more interesting is that your pre-operative emotions may be completely different than your post-operative emotions. We want to assuage any fears that you might have about your post-operative care by outlining what our physical therapists, chiropractor and massage therapist might do to care for you. Depending on the type of orthopedic surgery you have, you're post-operative care may be different than what we describe here; however, most post-operative care follows similar guidelines. This post is designed to give you a better idea of what to expect and is not prescriptive.
Generally, rehabilitation during the first 0-8 weeks is designed to protect the type of surgery performed. Most tissues in your body require an initial protection phase so that proper healing can take place. During the protection phase of rehab, our staff combines hand-on manual care such as light passive range of motion exercises, massage, instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, light stretching, modality use (ice, heat, electric stimulation) and/or biofeedback to encourage proper healing. It's important to keep this phase mostly pain-free so that the surgical repair stays intact.
Following the protection phase, we typically move into the mobility phase, which often falls between weeks 6-12. During this phase, we continue with hands-on manual care but start to add light and simple exercises to regain overall mobility. This might include range of motion exercises, stretching and/or light muscular control exercises. Gains in motion and decreased pain are highlights of this phase.
The next phase is the strengthening phase, which typically begins around weeks 8-10 and continues through the end of your rehabilitation. We will likely continue any hands-on care and range of motion exercises from the prior weeks, but we will now start to strengthening the tissues that may have been repaired or lost strength while your tissues heal. We typically employ bands, weights and/or functional movements for strengthening exercises in this phase.
The final phase of rehab is called the functional training phase, which combines everything from the weeks prior and kicks it up a notch. During this phase, expect our therapists to continue much of what has already been done, but the focus of this phase will be adding specific functional tasks for you to complete. This might include return to work training or return to sport training. While hand-on care may continue, this phase is designed to get you ready to return to where you were prior to surgery. This phase typically begins anywhere between 12-16 weeks and lasts until we deem necessary. Full healing for most surgeries happens between 6-12 months, although you will not require physical therapy for the entire time.
Again, every surgery is different and we ask that you use this post as informative and not prescriptive. Some body parts require more time to heal and rehabilitate, so the aforementioned guidelines may vary. Despite varied healing times, though, our rehabilitation phases remain the same: protection, mobility, strengthening and functional training.
Please give us a call at 622-2500 if you have any further questions on what your post-operative rehabilitation might look like!