For many of us, surgery is something we must face at some point. Whether it’s a joint replacement, cardiac surgery or a Caesarean section, the surgery itself is only part of the battle. A successful outcome also relies on what happens in the days and weeks after surgery – the post-surgery rehabilitation. Physiotherapy is at the forefront of this crucial phase of recovery. In this article, we look at how rehabilitation physiotherapy speeds recovery and gets you back to full function after surgery.
What are the goals of post-surgery rehabilitation?
Surgery is vital for addressing many major health problems. But it comes with its own complications, including tissue damage, limited function during healing, and overuse pain in other areas as you use your body differently.
A physiotherapy rehabilitation programme aims to address these issues, speed up your recovery and get you back to full fitness as quickly as possible. The main aims are:
1) Pain management: some pain is inevitable after surgery, as your body heals. Physiotherapy can ease pain using manual techniques, exercises and modalities such as electrotherapy.
2) Restoring mobility: surgery frequently results in muscle damage and scar formation. Contractures can occur through the surgery itself and from post-surgery bed rest. Physiotherapy targets these tight tissues, making sure you regain full flexibility through a programme of massage, stretching and exercise.
3) Improving function: alongside flexibility, it’s important to regain full strength and coordination so that you can safely return to all your normal activities. A physiotherapist won’t just focus on your ‘damaged’ area, but ensure your whole body works in a coordinated way.
4) Rebuilding confidence: it can be scary to return to activity after major surgery. You might feel unsure about what your body can do and whether you should avoid certain things. A physiotherapist can guide you, providing advice, reassurance and encouragement.
Does the type of surgery matter?
People sometimes think that physiotherapists are only involved in post-surgery rehabilitation after orthopaedic surgery, such as a knee replacement. But, although the approach changes, physiotherapy benefits most post-surgical patients.
For example, cardiac patients require a programme that focuses on breathing, cardiovascular fitness and progressive exercise. Whereas, if you’ve had abdominal surgery, a physiotherapist will work with you to promote your core strength and control.
What does a rehabilitation physiotherapist do?
In your first post-surgery rehabilitation session, the physiotherapist will perform a comprehensive assessment of your condition, taking into account the effects of your surgery, any complications, and any other health concerns.
They will evaluate your mobility, strength, pain level and any limitations you may have.
Based on this, the physiotherapist creates a personalised treatment plan. They will discuss this with you to ensure that your goals and preferences are met.
In clinic, the physiotherapist will use manual techniques and modalities (such as ultrasound therapy) to ease pain, mobilise joints, reduce muscle tension and improve circulation to promote healing.
The physiotherapist will prescribe exercises targeted to address any areas that require strengthening or mobilising.
These exercises have a functional aim – that is, it’s not just about joint flexibility or muscle strength, but about enabling you to walk, lift, reach, carry, balance, and all those other elements that make up the actions of your day-to-day life.
Once you’re on your rehabilitation pathway, the physiotherapist will monitor your recovery with regular checks, adjusting the programme as you progress.
What are the benefits of post-surgery rehabilitation physiotherapy?
Post-surgery physiotherapy supports you on your journey back to full health. Here are some of its key advantages:
1) Faster recovery: physiotherapy boosts circulation and reduces inflammation to speed up the healing process. This 2018 study found that physiotherapy rehabilitation benefits recovery after hip or knee replacements, and that careful monitoring of progress is an important part of the process.
2) Pain reduction: your physiotherapist can help you manage your pain, both directly with hands-on treatment, and indirectly by teaching you strategies to help you cope. This empowerment can have a huge psychological boost and reduce the need for medication.
3) Enhanced mobility: regaining mobility is essential for achieving full function and independence, allowing you to get back to your daily activities.
4) Stress reduction: lessening your pain and helping you to achieve your goals can enhance your sleep, lower your stress levels and improve your overall well-being.
5) Building confidence: it’s a great confidence-booster to have someone to guide you on what you can do and when, support you, and answer any questions you may have during your recovery process.
What are the challenges of post-surgery rehabilitation physiotherapy?
So what are the challenges you should consider when thinking about physiotherapy as part of your post-surgery rehabilitation?
1) Cost: the price of private physiotherapy may be a factor in your decision. However, it’s wise to think of it as an investment in your future health. A full recovery not only returns you to independence but enables you to maintain a level of fitness that can prevent future health problems. In addition, here at Woodside Clinic, our physiotherapists are recognised by all major health insurance companies.
2) Commitment: rehabilitation is a process – it takes time and commitment to follow the programme. It’s important to follow your physiotherapist’s guidance on exercises and self-management. If you feel this might be difficult for you, discuss the issues with your physiotherapist. They may be able to make adjustments to help you manage, such as breaking down your exercise programme into smaller chunks.
3) Individual variation: every patient has a unique experience of surgery, and each body will respond differently. That’s why it’s important that your programme is personal to you, and that you have adequate monitoring. Sometimes, progress is slower than expected because of your body’s healing ability, surgical complications, pressures in your daily life, or other issues. The road to recovery can be frustrating. Talk to your physiotherapist if you have any concerns – they’ll be as keen to see you make a full recovery as you are!
Physiotherapy is an indispensable component of post-surgery rehabilitation, helping patients regain mobility, reduce pain, and feel empowered.
Experienced in working with patients following many kinds of surgery, your physiotherapist can offer you support, confidence, and a guiding hand on the road to recovery.
If you’ve recently had surgery, or have surgery planned, our physiotherapy team are on hand to help you. Get in touch with our Dunstable or Leighton Buzzard clinics, or book an appointment now to start your journey back to full health.