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Recovering After Surgery: The Role of Physiotherapy

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | October 20th, 2021

Orthopaedic surgery is a relatively common occurrence these days, mostly as a second or third line of treatment for musculoskeletal pain or injury in the upper limb, lower limb or spine. This can range from elective surgery for long standing joint degeneration, to soft tissue muscle or ligament tears, all the way through to traumatic fractures and dislocations just to name a few. Whatever the cause, surgery is a big event in  life and will have a big effect on a body. It is therefore important to recognise that surgery for musculoskeletal pain or dysfunction will not necessarily provide an immediate resolution to symptoms.


The rehab pathways a patient follows to recover after surgery will often have a direct correlation to the overall success level of their surgery. Physiotherapy should normally begin in hospital at a very early stage following your surgery, and you should then seek to continue your physiotherapy after you arrive home from hospital, that’s where we come in.



Physiotherapy following surgery can have multiple important benefits such as:

  • Reducing Pain
  • Reducing Inflammation
  • Optimising Healing
  • Enhancing Mobility
  • Improving Muscle Strength
  • Improving Balance and Co-Ordination


Overall, these benefits are designed to help maximise your recovery after surgery and get you back functional and achieving your goals as efficiently as possible.


Pain Reduction

It is highly likely you will experience some level of pain following your surgery as your recovery starts. This is normal. Safe early joint/tissue mobilisation and loading guided by your physiotherapist can help to reduce joint pain and stiffness and optimise your recovery.


Reducing Inflammation

Following your surgery, it is likely you will have swelling in the localised area around the site of the operation. If left unmanaged, this swelling can often track downwards towards the hand or ankle causing pain and restriction to function. Physiotherapy will aim to try and minimise this swelling, so it does not inhibit your recovery back to full function. This might include advice on the use of cold/compression therapy, soft tissue massage, taping and early joint mobilisation.



Optimising Healing

Following surgery, your body will go through a natural tissue repair process to help your surgical site heal. Physiotherapy will help to optimise this and reduce the risk of complications by introducing the right level of activity at the most appropriate times. Minimising the risk of excess scar tissue formation following surgery is also important to allow your tissues to move without restriction. This might include specific scar tissue massage work and advice on things to do at home which might help.


Enhancing Mobility

There is clear evidence to support that early ambulation of the body and a localised joint can stimulate improved blood flow which can reduce the risk of surgical complications such as blood clots (DVT) forming. This will often lead to earlier discharge from hospital thereby also reducing your risk of hospital acquired infections. Early mobilisation within the safe limitations set by your surgeons will also help restore your daily function as soon as possible and improve the potential long-term outcome of the surgery.


Improving Muscle Strength

Orthopaedic surgical procedures whether directly targeting a muscle or not, will inadvertently interfere with muscle tissue. Early and safe muscle activation work along with progressive strengthening at the right time post-op will work to restore your normal mechanics, control, and stability. This will help restore your function as quickly as possible.



Improving Balance

Altering the way we move because of injury, pain or surgery will often have a negative impact on our balance and joint co-ordination. Your physiotherapist will work on your localised joint control, alongside your global balance and co-ordination where appropriate to ensure this is optimised to improve your longer-term function.


What will happen at your initial appointment at Shawe Physio following your surgery?


Your physiotherapist will provide a thorough assessment of the operated area which is appropriate to your time scale post-surgery. They will then be able to prescribe an individualised treatment plan to help restore your day-to-day function and achieve your longer-term goals. This plan may include advice and education of ways to maximise your recovery at home, a swelling management plan, hand on treatment as needed, and provision of a tailor-made programme of exercises to help with your recovery.

As you progress through your rehabilitation process and your function improves, your physiotherapist will continually progress your treatment and aim to challenge your body systems to further enhance mobility, strength, balance and start to aim at functional specific tasks for higher level function. This may include progression onto more sport specific work at later stages if returning to sport is your long-term goal.


Closing thoughts


If you wish to discuss rehabilitation for your up-and-coming surgery in more detail then please don’t hesitate to contact us now, one of our highly qualifies clinicians would be happy to discuss this on the phone. To book an initial assessment following surgery just call our reception team who will be on hand to arrange a convenient time to come and see one of our specialists who can start you on your road to recovery and improved function.