We are dedicated to serving our patients in a way that sees them through illness or injury with a sense of hope. When surgery is part of a comprehensive treatment plan, we often also incorporate physical therapy as an aspect of rehabilitation.
What is physical therapy?
Physical therapy is an area of healthcare in which the focus is on the evaluation and treatment of various physical limitations. Services provided by a licensed physical therapist revolve around improving functional mobility after an injury. This may be accomplished using specific rehabilitative exercise, manual therapy, and numerous different modalities. For example, in addition to facilitating and overseeing the performance of functional exercises to improve mobility, a physical therapist may also utilize heat, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, or other therapeutic methods to restore proper body mechanics.
Importance of Physical Therapy after Surgery
There are several reasons why physical therapy is commonly prescribed for surgical patients.
- Physical therapy facilitates healing. Tissues regain strength and flexibility, range of motion and stability, through stretching and exercise. The precision movements performed in a physical therapy treatment program can help a patient regain the use of a limb or restore proper movement to a body part that has been injured.
- Balance and range of motion can improve with a course of physical therapy. It isn’t only necessary to restore proper movement in an area on which surgery has been performed. In the bigger picture, physical therapy can facilitate the implementation of compensatory movements during recovery or go so far as to help a patient learn to stand, walk, and move on a new joint.
- Prompt physical therapy exercise after surgery inhibits the buildup of scar tissue. Scar tissue is much less flexible than healthy tissue. Without adequate and targeted motion following surgery, the repaired area of the body may become extraordinarily stiff. To regain full use of the body part, it is necessary to break up scar tissue, which is generally an uncomfortable process. Physical therapy may prevent this occurrence.
- A vital part of recovery after surgery, physical therapy promotes faster healing and improved range of motion. As a result, patients can return to their active lifestyle and reduce their need for prescription pain medication more quickly.
What to Expect During Physical Therapy
One of the primary goals of physical therapy is to help you regain your ability to perform normal daily activities. Achieving that goal takes time and, possibly, numerous strategies.
Initially, your physical therapist will conduct a comprehensive medical history and consultation. At Summit Healthcare Orthopedic Center we also use Physical Therapy Assistants (PTAs). Every patient will be evaluated by a Physical Therapist, but PTA’s may perform subsequent treatments. They may perform several screenings to evaluate posture, strength, coordination, balance, and more. This initial stage of care may observe how you walk, how to lift and bend, and how you sit or stand. Furthermore, your therapist may ask for more information about your daily activities and home or work environment. The information gathered during your intake visit helps your therapist determine goals and develop a course of care.
During active physical therapy appointments, your therapist will likely demonstrate special exercises that you will do on your own at home. You may also be taught different ways to modify different activities so they are easier to perform and reduce strain on your body. As physical therapy progresses, the therapist continually monitors the progress of rehabilitation and corresponds with your primary healthcare team as needed or requested by you.
What to Wear to Physical Therapy
Physical therapy appointments typically involve stretching, moving, and exercising. Your physical therapist may ask you to wear shorts or loose-fitting clothing to your visits. This allows you to properly perform prescribed movements and also allows your therapist to observe how your muscles are moving and interacting. It is also necessary to wear comfortable exercise shoes to physical therapy; the kind you would wear to the gym or on a good power-walk.
How long will I need physical therapy?
A course of physical therapy typically lasts 6 to 8 weeks. Patients are strongly encouraged to continue attending regular physical therapy sessions until their goals are achieved or until the therapist or physician suggests reevaluation due to lack of improvement. It takes at least 6 weeks for soft tissue to heal, so this is the general timeframe prescribed to most patients. In some cases, improvement occurs very quickly and the patient is released to a home exercise program sooner than anticipated.
How will I feel after physical therapy?
Patients can expect to feel slightly sore or uncomfortable after physical therapy sessions. If you encounter discomfort that decreases your commitment to your therapy program, talk with your therapist. Strategies can be implemented to help you recover faster after each session. These include icing the area that is sore, drinking plenty of water to process the toxins released due to inflammation, and taking approved medication as directed.