What Is Post Surgery Rehabilitation And Why Is It Necessary?
Updated: Apr 25
Unfortunately, no matter how much we might wish, life doesn't go back to normal right away after surgery.
Either if you had a simple routine operation or you suffered a traumatic car accident, you will need some time to get back on your feet and function as usual.
Post-surgery rehabilitation can speed your recovery up immensely and ensure the treatment and surgery's success.
Physical therapy (PT) is a big part of the post-operative rehabilitation process and helps patients regain strength, mobility, and confidence. It includes various techniques that target specific body areas, including stretches, exercises, hands-on therapy, and other modalities.
Let's take a look at how physical therapy can help and what else you should consider.
What is Post Surgery Rehabilitation?
Post-surgery rehabilitation is a specially designed program to re-establish muscle strength and joint function, prevent respiratory and vascular complications, increase mobility, and give the patient confidence to live a full life again.
Physical therapy is the primary tool to achieve these goals and you can learn here how it can benefit you. Nonetheless, other health professionals play a part too.
It's vital to keep in mind that rehabilitation after surgery can take a very long time, from a couple of months to a full year, so it's not a quick fix. It depends on the surgery and its outcomes how long each program will last.
The most common surgeries after which patients benefit from post-surgery rehabilitation:
Orthopaedic (bone, joint, and muscles)
Obstetric and gynaecological (postnatal, hysterectomy, etc.)
Spinal and neurological (disc repairs and replacements, brain surgery, spinal)
Abdominal and thoracic ( lungs, heart, liver, gastrointestinal system, and other organs)
Breast (resections and reconstructions)
Urological (bladder and prostate)
Where does it take place?
Post-surgery rehabilitation usually starts right away after the surgery in the hospital and then continues at your physiotherapist's office or your home.
The in-hospital rehabilitation will depend on your specific surgery and its outcomes and will be prescribed by your doctors.
Usually, you get an introduction to your rehabilitation, get equipment, exercise advice, and learn how to move safely after the surgery.
First Rehabilitation Steps At The Hospital:
Movement assistance: helping and teaching you to move safely, advising and teaching you to use mobility aids like crutches, etc.
Splints and slings: fitting of splints or slings and instructing you how to do that at home.
Breathing exercises: you will be given some tips on how to breathe properly to avoid respiratory and vascular complications
Future rehabilitation advice: your doctors will explain what to expect in the upcoming weeks and months and suggest the treatment plan (or recommend another professional).
Discharge advice: you will be informed about any necessary equipment and tools you will need at home for your rehabilitation
Exercises:you might be taught specific exercises you can later perform at home (if you're in a good enough condition).
Outpatient Post-Surgery Rehabilitation
Once you're discharged from the hospital, you might have a referral to a physical therapist, but you can also find one yourself. This is where the long road to recovery begins.
Your therapist and other health specialists will create an individual treatment plan that will help you recover and improve your range of motion, coordination, and strength. The end goal of this is for you to resume your usual activities as much as possible, get back to work and live a fulfilled life.
The treatment modalities might include:
Hands-on mobilization and massage,
Guided and at-home exercises
Hot and Cold Therapy
Electrical stimulation and TENS
Why You Need Post Operative Rehabilitation
Sometimes patients think or hope that the rehabilitation tips at the hospital are enough for them to recover. Unfortunately, that's not the case, and you need to commit to rehabilitation for months to come.
Post-surgery physiotherapy and other rehabilitation treatments help strengthen and mobilize affected joints, muscles and improve circulation and breathing.
Post-surgery rehabilitation helps:
Manage your pain and discomfort
Regain your independence
Strengthen and stretch muscles
Improve circulation and range of motion
Improve lung volume and prevent chest infections
Return to your usual daily activities
Reduce any anxiety and regain your confidence
Increase comfort and reduce the risk of pressure sores
Let's look at the most common benefits closer.
Pain Reduction or Elimination
Pain is one of the most common issues when recovering after surgery. Sometimes there's a misconception that physical therapy can cause even more pain, but that's entirely not true.
Various treatment modalities and exercises actually help reduce or completely eliminate pain by restoring muscle and joint function.
Regained or enhanced mobility
If you've ever had surgery, you know that moving the same you did before is very difficult. Your range of motion is reduced by surgery, and it might be difficult to walk and perform various tasks.
Physical therapy and various exercises can help increase the range of motion and also teach you to temporarily use mobility aids like crutches, canes, or walkers. Why PT is important? Find out here.
Better muscle function
Since you spend so much time immobile after surgery, your muscles can get stiff and tense. A physical therapy program can help you improve muscle function, increase strength, flexibility, and endurance. This can be done by massages, hands-on therapy, and exercises.
Surgery is a massive trauma to your body, and you need time to get back to normal. Losing balance and falling down is a common problem after operations, and post-operative physiotherapy can help you learn certain exercises that will help prevent those dangerous accidental falls.
Improved blood circulation
Again, because surgery is trauma and you also spend a lot of time lying in bed, you need to make sure your blood circulation is not impacted.
Proper blood circulation is crucial to recovery and healing as it carries oxygen and other nutrients throughout the body.
How Is A Full Rehabilitation Program?
While physical therapy is one of the primary tools to healing during your post-surgery recovery journey, there's much more you can do to have a wholesome treatment plan.
Here are all the health professionals you may benefit from during your rehabilitation after surgery.
Depending on your surgery and its outcome, you might need help to regain some basic skills such as cooking, showering or dressing up. An occupational therapist can help you relearn these quicker and easier and share specific techniques that will make your life more manageable.
Proper nutrition is crucial to healing, and a nutritionist can help you plan a healthy meal menu. They can also work with your doctor to include specific products and nutrients that will speed up your healing process.
After certain surgeries (e.g., brain), patients need help to regain this skill, and a speech therapist is essential in helping you do so.
Having an at-home nurse can be extremely helpful if you can afford this service. They will not only help you with your daily tasks but will also keep track of your rehabilitation appointments, recovery, medicine etc. You may not need a live-in nurse as a couple of hours a day often suffices.
Taking care of your mental health is extremely important after surgery. Many patients experience anxiety, stress, and even depression, so a counselor or a psychologist can help you navigate this difficult time.
Sometimes patients underestimate the importance of this and think taking care of the physical body is enough. But a healthy mind makes you feel better, more committed to the rehabilitation work, and actually speeds the whole process up.
How Long Will It Take?
The million-dollar question is how long the post-surgery rehabilitation takes. And it is not an easy one to answer as each patient, and each situation is different.
It may take from one month to a half year to a full year to get to a full recovery.
If there are no complications and if you stay committed to the rehabilitation process, a year is commonly the longest it takes.
But it's important to keep in mind that there are situations when a patient never goes back to 100% of their previous capacities, and a doctor and a physical therapist should address that after the surgery and during the rehabilitation process.
Having reasonable expectations will help avoid disappointments and focus on the task at hand.
Post-surgery rehabilitation is a long, slow process to healing that might take weeks, months, or even a year.
Physical therapy (PT) is a big part of the post-operative rehabilitation process and helps patients regain strength, mobility, and confidence. You will most likely be recommended such treatments as stretches, special exercises, hands-on therapy, and other modalities.
Recovery begins at the hospital and continues at the physical therapist's office or patient's home.
Besides physical therapy, it is recommended to consider consulting with other medical professionals such as a nutritionist, psychologist, occupational therapist and speech therapist to address every aspect of recovery.
At Miracle Physical Therapy, we can help you to get on the right track and start the journey to a pain-free life.
If you feel ready to start some advanced post-surgery rehabilitation, we can schedule your appointment in the next 24 hours.