The Stages of Post-Operative Rehabilitation

Whether you’re a highly active person or you engage in minimal exercise, you can get injuries from many different activities. Sprains, strains, fractures, breaks, and dislocations can come from something as basic as not lifting an object properly to not warming up properly before starting a foot race. And even basic injuries can be bad enough to need surgery to repair properly. If you get an injury that requires surgery, the process of recovery can vary depending on your injury.

If you live in the Hagerstown, Maryland area and you’re dealing with rehabilitation post surgery, Christopher D. Clark, MD, and the team at Premier Spine and Sports Medicine have years of expertise helping with those very needs.

How long you take to recover from surgery will differ depending on the severity and location of the injury. Regardless, the process of rehabilitation can be broken down into the following steps:

Surgery recovery

Your first step toward normal function is healing from the surgery itself. Any surgery will require some form of incision to the treated area, so medications to help with pain and inflammation may be used. Ice is commonly used to help reduce swelling. Braces, slings, crutches, or casts may be necessary to keep a limb or area in a fixed position to allow things to heal properly. 

In some cases, exercises to start restoring strength and motion may begin shortly after surgery. This will depend on what is being treated (joint repair, fusing bone, fixing fractures, etc.), and in many cases getting basic function back is an important early step in recovery. But the main focus of this step is pain management to gauge how soon to start moving and testing the injured area.

Rebuilding motion

Mobilizing an injury is very important to getting your body to behave normally after surgery. Knowing when to start physical therapy is vital to avoid stretching and moving too soon, which will only slow down the healing process. Physical therapy is necessary to help build flexibility through stretching and moving the injured area based on your ability. 

Soft tissue and joint mobilization training are used to improve range of motion and reduce pain. Various exercises are used in therapy and at home to help your injury heal properly and not limit movement.

Rebuilding strength

Equally important is rebuilding strength through physical therapy to avoid muscle weakness, which will also limit flexibility, endurance, and power in an injured area. Muscle weakness is often noted in an injury post surgery within a month to six weeks. 

Having a regimen that focuses on adding strength and cardiovascular endurance will allow less chance of muscle weakness and restore regular function more quickly. Cycling, pool exercises, and other targeted exercises can strengthen without aggravating an injury. Different injuries will put different demands on physical therapy. 

Restoring normal function

Once you have more strength and increased motion, the next step to getting back to your regular life is balance and coordination. Exercises at this stage are designed to increase speed and agility, and require more targeted and nuanced training depending on your level of normal physical activity. At this point, you should be close to getting back to routine activity and exercise with normal flexibility, strength, and equilibrium.

Everyone heals from injuries at different rates, so your treatment will be designed to suit your specific needs. Getting back to intense physical activity for sports may take longer than normal function, and age can play a part in healing times.

If you’ve just had surgery and need quality physical therapy to get back on track, schedule a consultation with Dr. Clark and Premier Spine and Sports Medicine to get started today by calling our office or booking an appointment online.

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