Post-Operative Physiotherapy

What is Post Operative Physiotherapy?

Post-operative physiotherapy is usually a program of physiotherapy prescribed for patients who have undergone orthopaedic surgery. Patients may think that the hardest part is over once they have the operation, but in reality, the recovery is only just beginning. A good relationship with a physiotherapist can be vital to help manage rehabilitation following surgery. Post-operative physiotherapy will usually be required for months during recovery to ensure the best results from surgery.

Who is post-operative physiotherapy for?

Post-operative physiotherapy is necessary for patients who have undergone any orthopaedic surgery. The most common operations requiring post-operative physiotherapy are;

Hip Pain:

Knee Pain:

Ankle Pain:

Shoulder Pain:

Elbow Pain:

Wrist Pain:

Back Pain:

What to expect from a post-operative physiotherapist?

Following your operation, you will usually have between 1-5 days in the hospital. In that time, you will begin your recovery as soon as possible. The physiotherapy team in the hospital will aim to have you out of bed and moving on the first day after surgery. It is vital to sit out of bed or at least upright to avoid any complications like DVT or clots. The first part of rehabilitation will focus on early strengthening and range of motion exercises.

Post-operative physiotherapy treatment

Following discharge from the hospital, you will continue to require physiotherapy for rehabilitation and progression of your program. Physiotherapy treatment focuses on improving your strength and range of motion as well as a specific focus on your function. It is essential that your post-operative physiotherapist is familiar with the protocols of your surgeon and can liaise with them regarding your recovery.

Treatment from a post-operative physiotherapist will consist of manual therapy techniques to improve range of motion with a big focus on a progressive exercise program to regain strength. Your physiotherapist will continue to reassess your range of motion and strength during treatment to ensure you are achieving the required goals.

Goals/outcomes of post-operative physiotherapy

The goal of post-operative physiotherapy is to return to normal function as soon as possible. The rehabilitation process can be long and enduring but will be worth it to regain your quality of life and function. You may have had to give up your favourite sport or exercise because of pain before surgery; the goal would be to get you back to those things you love.

It is a complicated process going through orthopaedic surgery, and we want to make it as stress-free and straightforward as possible.

Frequently asked questions

1. Is pre-operative physiotherapy necessary or useful?

Absolutely! The research is quite clear that patients who engage in a strength and rehabilitation program before surgery have much better outcomes once they have surgery. The idea here is to make the muscles around the joint/area that requires surgery to be as healthy as possible to withstand the demands of surgery. It is best to start a pre-operative rehabilitation program at least three months before your scheduled surgery date.

2. Does physiotherapy help with swelling?

Swelling and inflammation is a normal and expected part of surgery. Your physiotherapist will help manage the swelling as well as giving you exercises to speed up the repair process following surgery. Your physiotherapist will also be able to identify any abnormal swelling following surgery that may need medical review. Swelling post-surgery is entirely normal and can remain for up to 6 months.

3. Why do you lose range of motion following surgery?

Following major surgery, the muscles around the injury will lose strength and atrophy. The surgeon may also need to dissect the tissues as well, which will dramatically reduce strength. All of this will increase inflammation in the area, which will significantly reduce the range of motion. Swelling is entirely normal and will likely take three months to resolve completely.

4. Can massage help with swelling post-surgery?

Massage therapy can usually reduce swelling and inflammation in the body. Following surgery, there will be a lot of swelling as your body tries to heal and repair. It is common for there to be swelling and inflammation for at least three months following surgery. While massage may be comforting and relaxing, it will be unlikely to make a massive difference in reducing post-surgical swelling.

5. Is there anything I can do to speed up my recovery post-surgery?

It is essential that before and after surgery, you try and look after your health as best as possible. A healthy diet focusing on good sources of protein will help promote muscle growth and repair. It is best to avoid foods high in sugar as they will usually increase inflammation in your body. Sleep is an essential part of recovery, too, as the repair process happens mostly while our body is at rest! Of course, being diligent with your physiotherapy and exercises will have the most significant impact on recovery.

People also asked

1. How much does post-operative physiotherapy cost?

In the acute hospital setting, the physiotherapy team will look after you as part of your inpatient stay in hospital. Once discharged from hospital, you will need to seek the assistance of a physiotherapist who is an expert in post-operative physiotherapy. The cost of this service is similar to regular physiotherapy where you will pay on a per session basis. It is essential to get adequate care, especially in the initial stages of rehabilitation; otherwise, the surgical results won’t be as good as you may have hoped.

2. Does health insurance cover post-operative physiotherapy?

Yes, physiotherapy will be covered by your health insurance. Your hospital insurance will cover all physiotherapy services in the hospital, and then your extras policy will cover post-operative physiotherapy at your local clinic. It is best to speak to your insurance company before going ahead with surgery as you will most likely need quite a lot of treatment after your operation.

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