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Physical Therapy After Surgery

If you had (or are going to have) orthopedic surgery you should seriously consider following it up with physical therapy.

Physical Therapy can help to:

  • Decrease pain
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Decrease muscle guarding and tightness
  • Promote primary healing
  • Get you back to your life and back in action as fast as possible

Common Types of Orthopedic Surgery Treated by a Physical Therapist

  • Arthroscopic Procedures
    • Shoulder
      • Rotator Cuff Repair
      • Subacromial Decompression and/or Debridement
      • Distal Clavicle Excision or Rescection
    • Knee
      • Meniscus Repair
      • ACL Repair / Reconstruction
      • Chondroplasty
      • Collateral Ligament Repair
  • Joint Replacement (Total or Partial)
    • Hip
    • Knee
    • Shoulder
  • Back Surgery (Lower Back or Neck)
    • Microdiscectomy or Discectomy
    • Fusion
    • Laminectomy

Frequently Asked Questions After Orthopedic Surgery

Q: Do I absolutely need to go to physical therapy?

A: Ultimately this decision is one you and your surgeon should make together. In my experience, however, (and of course I’m a bit biased – being a Physical Therapist!) is that even if you only go in for a few visits you will get great benefit. A skilled Phyical Therapist – one who has expertise and experience working with people who have had your type of procedure – can provide treatment to make you heal better faster. Also, they can teach you what to do (and what NOT to do) to speed the healing process (such as decrease pain, decrease muscle guarding, manage inflammation, restore normal range of motion, restore normal muscle flexibility, strength and endurance, etc) and prevent any problems (i.e. prevent excessive scarring, prevent restrictions or limitations in range of motion, prevent gait abnormalities, etc). The choice is yours about what to do.

Q: How soon after surgery should I start going to physical therapy?

A: If your doctor recommended and gave you a referral for physical therapy they will usually tell you when to begin. In most cases I often see patients 1-7 days after a procedure (for less severe cases and less complex procedures). For more complex cases, starting 2 weeks after surgery is not uncommon. The main consideration is that you get clearance from your surgeon to begin physical therapy.

Q: How soon will I be able to return to work / school / normal activities?

A: This depends on too many factors to give a simple answer to. Be prepared, however, for it to be longer than you initially think before you have surgery. Most of my patients underestimate how long it will take to recuperate from surgery and this isn’t something you’ll want to rush. Rest assured that your Physical Therapist will work diligently with you to ensure a speedy recovery and return to activity. And if you have any concerns about this – be sure to bring it up on your first visit. This will allow you and your therapist to plan accordingly.

Q: How many days per week will I need to go to physical therapy?

A: Typical post-op protocols call for 2-3 days of physical therapy per week for the first 2-4 weeks (or more). Once the pain and inflammation are under control your treatment frequency may decrease to 1-2 days per week. Plan for your evaluation to last around 60 minutes and subsequent sessions typically last 30-60 minutes.

Q: I don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on co-payments. Can’t I just learn some exercises and do the rehab myself?

A: In some cases – regardless of your financial situation – you may benefit from infrequent (i.e. once a week or once every other week) sessions that focus on building a home exercise program. Some patients who do the exercises consistently and follow the recommendations of their therapist make excellent progress. Of course this greatly varies from case to case based on needs and complexity. If you are in need of more frequent visits but simply can’t afford it – talk with your therapist. In some cases you may be offered the option of signing a Financial Hardship Agreement. This is entirely at the discretion of the physical therapy practice. But in the event you qualify you may be able to attend sessions as needed and recommended (based on your surgery) without having to pay the full amount you would otherwise be responsible for. If this situation is one you are in need of – make sure you check with the office before you schedule your first appointment.  

Q: How do I know where to go for physical therapy? How do I choose a good Physical Therapist?

A: Check out this short video I put together on the 5 steps you need to take to find a great Physical Therapist

If you have any other questions feel free to call us at 720-222-9669. Best of luck with your surgery!