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5 Benefits of Physical Therapy After Surgery

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If you’ve recently had surgery then you’ve probably spent quite a bit of time thinking about your recovery.

Is there a way to speed things up? Should I be doing anything to help the healing process?

Yes and yes.

In this guide, we share the benefits of physical therapy after surgery and how soon you should get started.


Table of Contents

Why Is Physical Therapy Important After Surgery?

Physical therapy allows patients to recover faster and regain mobility quickly after surgery and also ensures that any repairs or replacements made during surgery will heal properly. Many patients prefer physical therapy for pain management as a way to avoid opioid medications.

In Motion O.C. specializes in physical therapy after surgery. From knee and hip replacement surgery to rotator cuff surgery to repair a torn tendon, the physical therapists at In Motion O.C. are dedicated to getting you back to doing the things you love.

To learn more, or to find out what we can do to help your recovery, click on the button below.

What Science Says About the Benefits of Physical Therapy After Surgery

Overwhelming evidence shows us that physical therapy and physical therapy exercises before and after surgery are extremely beneficial to patients and should begin as soon as possible after surgery.

The importance of a personalized physical therapy and exercise program, as outlined in this study, is the key to a successful recovery after surgery.

Not only can physical therapy make patients stronger for surgery, but they are able to implement a physical therapy and exercise program that will speed up the recovery process.

How Soon After Surgery Should You Start Physical Therapy?

Following the advice of your doctor or physical therapist, starting therapy as soon as possible after surgery is most beneficial to help avoid issues such as decreased blood flow to the surgical site (which can negatively impact healing) and the possibility of weakened and atrophied muscles.

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Why It’s Best to Not Delay Starting Physical Therapy After Surgery: The Science

Studies indicate that patients who start physical therapy on the day of their surgery see better overall results and a quicker recovery than those who start later.
In addition to achieving better results, hospitals saw a 10% increase in the number of hip replacement patients who were discharged on postoperative day 3.

5 Benefits of Physical Therapy After Surgery

Benefit #1: Enhance Mobility and Balance

Having surgery often results in limited mobility of the affected body part or region. The natural response of your body is to protect the area where trauma (in this case surgery) occurs, causing:

  • Swelling 
  • Muscle tightness
  • Spasms; and
  • Limited range of motion

These symptoms can make it difficult to get around after surgery. The benefits of physical therapy after surgery include enhanced mobility and balance, among other things.

How Enhanced Mobility and Balance Are Achieved With Physical Therapy After Surgery

A physical therapist will help you regain mobility through: 

  • Strengthening and stretching exercises  
  • Myofascial release; and 
  • Manual manipulation

In addition to strengthening the affected area, physical therapy improves overall balance and stability by strengthening the core, back, and pelvis muscles.

Stretching and exercising are especially important after an injury or surgery. Scar tissue can form around the affected area, causing tightness or stiffness.

Physical therapy stretches ensure that the trouble spot remains flexible and improves the range of motion.

Benefit #2: Improve Circulation

Physical therapy can speed up the healing process by improving your blood circulation. Because blood carries oxygen and nutrients through your body, improving circulation to the affected area will reduce inflammation and help you heal quicker.

How Improved Circulation Is Achieved With Physical Therapy After Surgery

Through the use of massage or electrical stimulation, blood flow is improved.

Electrical stimulation therapy works by passing an electrical current to the surgical site where nerve conduction has been altered. The increased blood flow and muscle contractions result in reduced pain and inflammation in patients.

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Benefit #3: Reduce/Eliminate Pain

Often, recovering patients worry that physical therapy will be painful, but it’s not. Exercising, stretching, and manual manipulations actually help to restore joint and muscle functioning and relieve pain.

Pain can also be caused by excess inflammation that compresses the nerves. Reducing inflammation improves mobility and promotes healing, and also reduces overall pain levels.

How Reduced Pain Is Achieved With Physical Therapy After Surgery

In addition to the movements and exercises done during therapy, ice and heat can be used to cool and heat the affected areas. Not only do heat and ice stimulate blood flow, but they also decrease swelling.

Knowing when to apply ice or heat is important and your physical therapist will guide you through the application process and frequency.

Benefit #4: Reduce Scar Tissue Formation

Soft tissue contracts and scar tissues form after any injury or surgery. Excess scarring can limit movements and reduce function for months following a procedure.

If scar tissue goes untreated, it can become very restrictive and painful. A physical therapist will focus on the internal scarring of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons to improve overall mobility.

How Reduced Scar Tissue Is Achieved With Physical Therapy After Surgery

Physical therapists perform various types of tissue mobilization techniques that will:

  • Soften the scar tissue
  • Improve flexibility; and 
  • Promote healing 

The therapist may use manual massage or ultrasound therapy to achieve the best results.

Benefit #5: Decrease Risk of Secondary Issues

Patients who don’t engage in exercise or movement after surgery may experience muscle weakness and a loss of function, but what’s worse is the risk of secondary issues.

Post-surgical complications, such as blood clots or infections, can be debilitating and even deadly.

Physical therapy reduces the risk of secondary issues with tailored exercise and movement programs.

How a Decreased Risk of Secondary Issues Is Achieved With Physical Therapy After Surgery

Patients who stay in bed after surgery run the risk of losing muscle strength, but they also may experience reduced lung and heart capacity and an increased risk of secondary conditions.

A supervised physical therapy program is the solution to this problem.

Physical therapy not only helps patients return to their daily activities safely and sooner by rebuilding strength to the affected area, but an individual movement and exercise plan can help dissolve dangerous blood clots that could form as a result of the surgery.

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The Benefits of Physical Therapy After Surgery Depend on the Right Clinic

The benefits of physical therapy after surgery are clear, so now it’s time to find a physical therapist who you feel confident working with.

We recommend that you enlist the help of a physical therapist before your surgery date. An initial consultation and evaluation to discuss your surgery, expectations, and goals can be very helpful.

When searching for your physical therapist, keep these tips in mind:

  • Make sure you’re working with a certified doctor of physical therapy.
  • Try to find a therapist who specializes in rehab for your specific injury/surgery.
  • Tour the facility where your therapy will take place to ensure that it’s clean, private, and has the required medical and exercise equipment for your needs.
  • Developing a relationship is essential during rehab. Make sure you’ll be seeing the same therapist each visit and that they can accommodate the frequency of your visits.

If you’re an Orange County resident looking for a physical therapist to assist with your post-surgical recovery, look no further than In Motion O.C.

Our physical therapists were voted #1 on Yelp and Google and for good reason!

We have an expert team consisting of certified doctors of physical therapy waiting to help you on your road to recovery.

Contact us to discuss your recovery options.

In Motion O.C.