The Importance of Physiotherapy After Joint Surgery
Why doing your exercises is so important.
The “unknown” road to recovery is an unavoidable aspect of joint surgery. How long will it take? Will it be painful? Will you be able to walk properly again? And what about returning to sports? Whether it is a long or short road to recovery, there is always some measure of healing that will need to take place, and it will take time, patience and a little work to get there. While it is wise to be prepared for your surgery and hospital stay, it is equally important to be aware of the significance and role physiotherapy will play as part of your recovery.
To help bring clarity on the significant role physiotherapy plays in recovery for our patients, we called on an experienced and passionate local sports physiotherapist, Candice Sumner from Candice Sumner Physiotherapy, to answer some questions and share her valuable insights.
What is a Physiotherapist?
Simply put, a physiotherapist is a health professional trained in manual and exercise therapy. They use modalities such as massage, ultrasound, electrotherapy and dry needling to release muscle tension, restore joint range of movement and rehabilitate the muscles in a specific area.
When it comes to orthopaedics, specifically, physiotherapists help restore the range of movement in the joint and build muscle stability and strength around the operated joint. They aim to get you back to as high a functional level as possible. This means that with both surgery and physio, there is an increased chance that you will be much better off after surgery than before.
What is the Role of a Physiotherapist?
The role of the physio is to get you back on your feet and living a full life. Once your wounds have healed, and the surgeons are happy with the surgery, the physiotherapist often becomes the primary health care worker.
Practically, a physio is one of the first providers you will see after you wake up from your surgery. This is because it is vital to get you up on your feet and weight-bearing as soon as possible. If you have had hip surgery, this is especially the case, as the care team will want to get you weight-bearing on day one so that by day three, you can start doing stairs and be discharged from the hospital. Early mobilisation (getting moving) is the key! The longer you leave a joint, the stiffer it will be in the long term; early mobilisation will help prevent your muscle from wasting.
The role of the physio is to get you back on your feet and living a full life.
How Long Is Physio for a Knee or Hip Replacement Required?
As the standard for most patients, physiotherapy would be recommended for about three months. While the first six weeks after surgery would require quite intensive physio, the good news is that you should be feeling much better by the end of these six weeks! The second six weeks are more focused on rehabilitation to bring you to a level where you are comfortable doing everyday activities. If you would like to return to a certain level of sport – an additional one or two months should be factored in, and this should help bring you to a level where you can adequately take part in your sport again.
Why is Physiotherapy So Key to Recovery?
In general, muscles just don’t rehabilitate themselves. You need specific exercises and rehab to help make this happen. It is also important to note that some of your muscles may have been cut through in surgery, and unfortunately, they won’t just “kick back in” and start working again.
We also see in patients that they can develop muscle imbalances or compensatory patterns, which can cause more issues later on and means that the patient doesn’t get the full results they would like to have. And while surgery may sort out the immediate pain you may have been experiencing you will still need to recover from the surgery itself (i.e. they cut through muscles). In the end, the physio is there to help you overcome any potential obstacles and get you to a place of optimal healing and recovery.
The Importance of Doing Your Exercises
You need to be doing exercises regularly after your surgery – at least two or three times a day. This will help you prevent joint stiffness and tight scarring around the surgical site, maintain the joint range of movement and build and maintain the muscle around the affected joint. It is not uncommon for those who do not do their exercises or follow through with their physio to months or even years later, still be limping or have a weaker glute. Anyone who does not do their exercises and complete their physio sessions thus is at risk of experiencing joint stiffness, muscle imbalance, muscle weakness and ultimately loss of function. While they may not experience the same pain anymore, they may not have functionally returned to their previous level of mobility.
It is important to note that physio does not necessarily speed up your healing time; by about three months after surgery, your tissue and bone should have healed, and you should be well on the road to recovery. Physio, in this case, is a tool to help lead you towards improved joint mobility and increased muscle strength around the joint and will ultimately enable you to return to sports a lot sooner, improving your overall functional outcome. In the end, physiotherapy is one more step to getting you back on your feet so you can continue to live a full life.
For any questions about what you can expect after surgery and the rehabilitation process, or should you wish to book an in-person or virtual consultation, get in touch with our team today. We are here to assist you on your journey to recovery and pain-free living.
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About Candice Sumner:
Candice began her practice in March 2012. She is driven by a passion for seeing people living an abundant life free from injury and pain. As a sufferer from chronic pain herself, following a spinal fracture, Candice knows how debilitating pain and injuries can be; but she also believes that through the proper treatment and exercise, we should all be able to enjoy a high quality of life – 100% pain-free where possible.