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Why Pre- and Post-op Physical Therapy is Important

Back pain

By: Rachel Herrmann, DPT, PT

Is surgery in the future for you to address your musculoskeletal  issue? Has your doctor mentioned the need for physical therapy afterwards? Or even the benefit of physical therapy to prepare you for the surgery beforehand? Some people think that the surgery is going to be the quick fix of their knee pain or of their rotator cuff tear or of their bulging disc, to name a few examples. However, often times the recovery from the surgery is not as quick of a fix as hoped for and the surgery alone does not help one regain the function of their leg, arm or core. Physical therapy is a crucial tool needed to compliment the work of a surgery in order to optimize functional capabilities afterwards in the short term and the long term. Physical therapy before a surgery can also be greatly beneficial in order to better prepare one’s body for the strains of surgery and for the necessary post-operative rehabilitation.  Below are further reasons for both pre-operative and post-operative physical therapy.

Reasons to initiate PT for pre-operative “Pre-hab”

  • Maximize/optimize flexibility or ROM restrictions
  • To decrease painful muscle restrictions
  • To help you go into the surgery with as much strength as possible to help combat the expected muscle weakness and atrophy that will occur as a result of the pain, trauma, and immobilization associated with the surgery
  • To help improve core and non-operative limb strength in order better be able to function and temporarily compensate for the healing limb
  • To help improve functional mobility to make it easier to get in/out of bed or up/down from a chair
  • For education on appropriate assistive device use and fitting if one may be needed after surgery
  • For deeper education on what to expect post-operatively including healing and rehab time frames to better help understand and plan for post-operative needs/modifications/precautions.
  • To familiarize yourself with many of the important post-operative exercises to help with strength and coordination post-operatively.

Reasons for post-operative physical therapy

  • To help optimize surgical outcomes- better recovery of:
    • range of motion
    • strength
    • overall function
    • Soft tissue healing
  • Expert guidance on post-operative precautions and rehabilitative protocols
  • Safe progression range of motion, strength, and activity
  • Professional guidance to help normalize posture and movement patterns
  • Reassurance of when pain is okay and when pain is telling you to take it easy.

The surgery alone will address the structural deficits which the body was not able to repair on its own. The physical therapy helps to restore the structure’s function and can help to address faulty body mechanics, soft tissue restriction, muscle imbalances or other impairments that may have also been pre-existing and contributing to the wear and tear or injury of the body part involved in the operation. So even if your doctor does not mention the need for physical therapy, speak up and ask your doctor about or contact us and ask a physical therapist here if physical therapy would be appropriate after your surgery. More than likely, you did not just have a surgery due to a pain, but rather due to the dysfunction and pain that limited your ability to stand, walk, negotiate stairs, reach, lift, carry, etc. So get the physical therapy you need in order to get your life, work, and leisure activities back to the way they were before. Call our office TODAY at 703-450-4300 and speak with one of our therapists about a plan of care. CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you.

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