Post-Surgical Rehab

older man post-surgery rehab

Hip Replacement Surgery Rehab

What is Post-Surgical Rehab?

Post-Surgical Rehabilitation is a form of treatment completed after a surgical operation. The rehabilitation process after surgery is different for each type of surgery and varies from patient to patient. The main goals of Post-Surgical Rehabilitation are to return to regular functioning (work, hobbies, physical activities), manage pain, and prevent re-injury. This treatment can be completed by a qualified physiotherapist, and often involves manual therapy, active stretching, and prescribed exercises. 

How We Can Help

Surgical operations are taxing on the body and often require some time off of work and activities for recovery. 

A physiotherapist will be aware of your limitations after surgery, assess your abilities, and progress your rehabilitation as necessary to help you return to better function and minimize pain.

At Vital Life Physiotherapy, we will develop a personalized rehabilitation program specifically for you that will help you manage pain, improve mobility and range of motion, and increase strength. We will get you back to doing the things you love as quickly as possible!

 The Benefits from Post-Operative Rehab

Anyone who has gone through an operation, either for joint replacement or general surgery, can benefit from treatment by a qualified physiotherapist. During the recovery period, it is important to keep moving to avoid losing general function and conditioning.

Having a physiotherapist guide you during this time is essential to help prevent complications arising from doing too much too soon, or not enough at all.

A physiotherapist can assist you with your form for the exercises, progress or regress the movement as necessary, and adjust exercises to fit your specific goals. Additionally, a qualified physiotherapist can assist you with pain management post-surgery and use tools and techniques to aid in the healing process.

older woman undergoing phyical rehab post surgery for knee replacement

Post-Surgery Rehab FAQ

Will Physiotherapy After Surgery Help Decrease Pain?

One of the main goals of Post-Surgical Rehabilitation is pain management. Working with a physiotherapist to get the pain down may lessen the need to take prescription pain-killers, or reduce the timeframe of needing them. Remember to always speak with your doctor regarding taking and stopping prescribed pain medication.

What Happens If You Don’t Do Physiotherapy After Surgery?

It may take longer for your strength and range of motion to return if you are not attending physiotherapy after your surgery. Total recovery in general and getting back to 100% may be extended longer than it needs to be by not completing a rehabilitation program with a physiotherapist.

When should postoperative rehabilitation begin?

Depending on the type of surgery you are receiving, postoperative rehabilitation can begin as soon as the day of the surgery or a few weeks later. For example, with total hip and knee replacements, patients are up and walking on the day of the surgery to get things moving right away. It is important to be aware of when you should be starting postoperative rehab as stretching or moving too soon may slow down the healing process, and your surgeon will help to determine when rehab should start.

Will Working with a Physiotherapist Help Prevent Re-injury?

Depending on the surgery, you may be considered at high risk for re-injury. Even if you successfully return to playing a sport, re-injury still remains a risk factor. While working with a physiotherapist, can help give you the necessary tools needed to prevent future reinjury.

Does Exercise Help Healing after Surgery?

Completing exercises after your surgery can help you in your healing process drastically. Rehabilitation exercises will help strengthen your muscles, ultimately leading to better outcomes in the healing process. Your physiotherapist will start you off with simple exercises, and gradually increase as you continue to recover. 

How often should you do physiotherapy after surgery? And should I do rehab every day?  

The frequency of attending physiotherapy will be different depending on the type of surgery you have received. Your physiotherapist will advise you on the duration and frequency of your treatment in your initial assessment appointment. Most postoperative patients benefit from daily exercises, how often to exercise will be part of the personalized recovery plan we create specifically for you.

Hip & Knee Replacement Post Surgical Care

Two of the most commonly performed operations in orthopedic surgery, hip and knee replacements are successful at eliminating one’s pain and improving mobility, which ultimately helps regains quality of life. 

Knee, hip, and shoulder replacements are performed by an orthopedic surgeon and have very specific guidelines for goals to reach pre and post-surgery. You will be provided with a guidebook on what to expect throughout the surgical process and exercises to complete in the weeks following surgery.

hip replacement post surgery xray

Hip Replacement Rehab

During a hip replacement, the damaged ball of the hip ball and socket joint is removed and replaced with a metal or ceramic ball that attaches to a stem that fits into the femur. The prosthetic components may be “press fit” into the bone to allow your bone to grow onto the components or they may be cemented into place. The decision to press fit or to cement the components is based on several factors, such as the quality and strength of your bone.

Post-surgical care for a hip replacements includes:

  • Reducing the pain, swelling, and scarring (ex: ice, heat)
  • Postoperative exercises to increase strength + range of motion
  • Balance & coordination training
  • Education to care for your new joints (ex: seat cushion, proper way to use walker etc)
  • Advice and tools to prevent future re-injury
  • Help with returning to recreational activities, daily activities, and sports
knee replacement post surgery xray

Knee Replacement Rehab

During a total knee replacement surgery, a thin amount of bone along the surface of the joint is removed from the end of the femur or thigh bone, the top of the tibia or leg bone, as well as the underside of the kneecap. Like hip replacements, knee replacements can either be cemented into place or covered in a special material into which the bone will grow.

Post-surgical care for knee replacements includes:

  • Reducing the pain, swelling, and scarring (ex: ice, heat)
  • Postoperative exercises to increase strength + range of motion
  • Balance & coordination training
  • Education to care for your new joints (ex: proper way to use crutches, how to climb stairs etc)
  • Advice and tools to prevent future re-injury
  • Help with returning to recreational activities, daily activities, and sports

Hip & Knee Replacement Aftercare

Following the surgery and a short stay in the recovery room, patients will begin walking on the day of their surgery. The majority of patients are then sent home with instructions for physiotherapy to begin. Depending on where your surgery was performed you may be approved for post-surgery rehabilitation. Our clinic works with Vancouver Coastal Health and can bill directly, which covers patients for 12 visits for a knee replacement (2 x a week for 6 weeks), and 3 visits for a hip replacement (1 @ 2 weeks/6 weeks/12 weeks post-op).

Typically, patients can return to work and other normal activities within one to three months, depending on their overall health and progress during recovery.

The 5 Stages of Post-Surgical Rehabilitation:

  1. Phase 1 – Control pain and swelling
  2. Phase 2 – Improve range of motion and/or flexibility
  3. Phase 3 – Improve strength & begin Proprioception (sense of self movement)/balance training
  4. Phase 4Proprioception/balance training & sport-specific training.
  5. Phase 5 – Gradual return to full activity

These stages are used by physiotherapists, starting right after your discharge from surgery and lasts until the last phase where all body functions are back to a normal level, and a gradual return to full activity can be completed. 

Other Common Surgeries that Benefit from Rehab Include:

Woman with shoulder pain

ACL SurgeryAnterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) surgery is a reconstruction surgery that repairs the major ligament in your knee. Injuries to this ligament commonly occur during sports.  

Post-surgery physical rehab will typically focus on building muscle strength to support the joint, carefully working to safely increase range of motion and will include information on preventing re-injury. 

You can expect about six months of rehab before you can return to full strength in sports and physical activity.

Torn Rotator Cuff Surgery

A rotator cuff tear is a very common cause of shoulder pain, that can either happen through an injury or wear (degeneration). Depending on the type of tear, you may be able to start rehabilitation as early as 2 weeks following surgery. For larger tears, immobilization in a sling and a waiting period of 4 – 6 weeks may be requested by your surgeon to protect the healing.

Rehab includes exercises to increase strength, stretches to increase range of motion along with modalities, and patient education.

Achilles Tendon Surgery Rehab

The achilles tendon is a strong cord in your lower leg that connects the muscles of the calves to your heel. It is the largest tendon in your body and is responsible for helping you to walk, run, and jump. You will need to wear a cast or walking boot for 6 – 12 weeks following the surgery of your achilles tendon, your physiotherapist can work with you through this process of knowing when to take off your boot and start to put pressure on your ankle.

Returning to sport or activities can range anywhere from 4 – 6 months depending on how well it is healing, and how well you follow your rehab program.

Shoulder Joint Surgery Rehab

Shoulder joint replacement surgery repairs the worn parts of your shoulder joint. The treatment options are either replacement of just the head of the humerus bone (the ball), or replacement of both the ball and the socket.

Post-surgery rehabilitation goals are to protect surgical repair, reduce swelling, minimize pain, gradually increase shoulder range of motion, and provide patient education such as talking about precautions. 

Back Surgery Post Surgery Care

There are many different types of back surgery such as spinal fusion, discectomy, vertebroplasty, nucleoplasty, and artificial disc replacement. Depending on the type of back surgery you are receiving, the timelines for hospital care and rehab will differ. Physiotherapy will help patients stay aware of how they walk, sit, stand, and lie down to help prevent back pain from recurring.

Rehabilitation for back surgery usually starts anytime between 6 weeks to 3 months post-surgery. 

What to Expect at Your First Appointment:

During your initial assessment, your physiotherapist will take down information on your recent surgery as well as previous medical history, while completing an assessment of your current condition or injury. The surgeon’s report may be requested to be seen by your physiotherapist so that they have a better understanding of how things went during the operation. 

Your therapist will then start in the phase 1 category which is to reduce the pain and swelling and depending on what you are coming in for, they will decide on which modalities to use for you and discuss options before doing so. Exercises to improve your range of motion and flexibility will be given which can be completed at home, and discussed at your follow-up appointments. 

Next Steps

If you have questions about whether this treatment is right for you please give us a call (604) 474-1276

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