If you’re undergoing surgery for a musculoskeletal issue, it’s easy to see the operation as the final hurdle in the recovery process. After you’ve come out of the operating room and had a few days of rest, you’ll be fixed and ready to go, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy. In fact, surgery is usually just the first step on the road to recovery.
Depending on the details of your operation, there’s a good chance your doctor will recommend following a physical rehabilitation plan to get your body back up to speed. But the rehabilitation process doesn’t happen overnight. It often takes months of regular physiotherapy to fully restore your strength, mobility and flexibility.
The benefits of rehab after surgery
It’s not easy to be disciplined for weeks on end, but sticking to your rehab plan is ultimately the best way to help your body recover after surgery. Here are just some of the benefits:
1. Support the healing process
One of the key advantages of rehab is that it supports and speeds up the healing process so that you can get back to your usual activities. Physical therapy can help prevent scar tissue forming, reduce loss of muscle mass and increase your range of motion, all of which support the body’s ability to heal.
2. Reduce the risk of repeat injury
Some parts of the body are vulnerable to repeat injury. For example, about 20 percent of people who undergo ACL reconstruction will suffer a second ACL injury within 24 months of returning to sport, according to research published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. Post-surgery rehab is an opportunity to identify and correct the imbalances that lead to injury.
3. Improve balance and movement
Rehab is critical for restoring mobility and helping you move fluidly and without pain. During rehab, your physiotherapist will work with you to devise a strengthening program that builds up the supporting muscles that surround the affected joint, and provide you with exercises to gradually increase your range of motion. In addition, if you have undergone major surgery that affects your balance (say, total knee replacement or hip fracture surgery), rehab can help you relearn how to move safely and confidently.
What happens if you neglect your surgery rehab?
It’s not uncommon for patients to fall off the recovery wagon at some point - especially if they feel that their progress is plateauing. Some research indicates that as many as 70 percent of patients do not fully adhere to their physiotherapy treatment plan. There are a number of significant risks involved with neglecting physiotherapy after surgery:
1. Slower recovery
As noted above, physiotherapy directly supports your body’s natural healing abilities and can help speed up the recovery process. If you don’t follow through with your rehab, you may increase the risk of developing scar tissue, be less able to maintain muscle mass and lose flexibility in the affected joint. All of these factors hinder your recovery and prevent you from resuming your normal day to day activities.
2. Increased risk of reinjury
The last thing you want after having surgery is to re-injure yourself and go through the recovery process all over again. In a study from the University of Minnesota, researchers found that patients who did not follow a physiotherapy exercise plan were 11 percent more like to reinjure their ankles than those who followed a rehabilitation program.
A good physiotherapist can provide expert insight into rehab exercises that are tailored to your specific injury and unique anatomy, and show you how to perform them safely. They also offer guidance as to which activities and movements are appropriate for where you are in the recovery process so that you don’t push your body into anything it’s not ready for.
Contact your local surgery rehab experts
It’s vital to follow up with physiotherapy after any type of musculoskeletal surgery, and it’s just as important that you stick to the rehab plan right the way through. While it can be difficult to adhere to a rehab program for months on end, it’s ultimately the best way to support your body’s natural healing processes and help you regain any strength and mobility you might have lost as a result of your injury.
If you’ve had surgery and you’re looking for a physio to support you through the rehabilitation process, feel free to give us a call today on 09 476 2166 or book an appointment online.