We all want to be as active as possible for as long as possible. As we retire, we dream of traveling, enjoying our favorite sport, or gardening. So when the prospect of surgery arises, we naturally worry about what comes next.
When planning any major surgery, an important thing to consider is what daily life will be like afterward – how long we’ll be immobile, what problems in daily functioning we may face, and how to best solve them. Will we need crutches or a walker? Will we be able to independently navigate to the washroom or climb the stairs? Life after returning from a hospital will change for a while, therefore it is important to get prepared as much as possible. Having a professional team of perioperative physical therapists on our side increases our chances of getting back on our feet fast.
How do we benefit from pre-surgery physical therapy?
Pre-operative rehabilitation can significantly shorten our post-operative recovery. An experienced therapist can prepare an individualized care plan, consisting of manual therapy and exercises to improve overall fitness. It aims to strengthen our muscles, improve flexibility and endurance, and regain mobility and independence. If the patient uses a walker or crutches after surgery, the therapist has to demonstrate how to use them correctly. This is extremely important, as improperly fitted crutches can do more harm than good. Many patients come to our clinic complaining of shoulder problems and arm pain resulting from poorly fitting canes or crutches. Some time ago, we worked with a patient after a complicated knee surgery. Since the surgery was not planned and resulted from a sudden injury, there was no time for preoperative physical therapy. At the hospital, no one showed him how to use a cane properly. When he got to P D Rehab, it turned out that he had immense pain in his shoulder and neck because the cane he was using was much too short for him. He was also not taught how to properly and therefore safely walk stairs, risking yet another injury.
Surgical procedures that should be followed by physical therapy are those after back, neck, shoulder, elbow, knee, ankle, and foot injuries. Also, it is very important to rehabilitate after hip, knee, shoulder, and ankle joint replacement or shoulder and knee arthroscopy. Any complications after abdominal, thoracic, or pelvic floor surgery are also an indication to begin physical therapy. A rehabilitation program tailored to the individual patient’s needs is a key part of post-operative care to prevent possible complications. It improves balance, blood, and circulation and helps supply tissues with oxygen, which speeds up the healing process. This comprehensively enhances the patient’s quality of life and helps reduce pain, swelling, and restriction of mobility, preventing the weakening of muscles and atrophy. Abdominal or thoracic procedures always leave scars and adhesions. Without rehabilitation or improper rehabilitation, the surgery can adversely affect the functioning of the digestive or respiratory systems. If someone is facing such problems, a professional physical therapist can help by using appropriately selected manual therapy treatments.
One of our clinic’s patients, Mary, had both knee joints and her right shoulder replaced. As she recalls, the decision to undergo those procedures was not an easy one. Despite being in her seventies, she loved to travel, so she was most concerned about being immobilized at home. While she wanted to continue exploring the world, her painful knees greatly limited her ability to travel. Therefore, she decided to undertake her first surgery, which took place in 2015. Another was done two years later. A year ago she required a shoulder joint replacement. However, thanks to preoperative and then postoperative specialized physiotherapy, her recovery have exceptionally smoothly each time. Before attending a hospital, Mary exercised three times per week under the guidance of a therapist and on her own at home according to a plan laid out for her. After her surgery and home care, she began therapy at P D Rehab. Then, having already completed her course of treatment, she enrolled in the wellness program offered by our clinic. Now, at almost 78 years old, she is still planning new trips and has no intention of slowing down.
Remain active, and live longer!
A National Institutes of Health study of seniors found that failing to complete perioperative rehabilitation increases the chances of complications after surgery. Due to a lack of physical activity, muscles become flabby and weak, and heart and lung capacity decreases. One of the best solutions to this problem is a carefully designed and monitored physiotherapy program. Rehabilitation can not only help patients maintain their independence but – in the case of seniors – live longer. Moreover, it allows pain to be treated safely using natural methods, without the unnecessary use of strong painkillers. The endorphins our bodies produce during physical activity play a substantial role as well. They improve our mood and have a positive effect on our mental condition, which also contributes significantly to a shorter recovery time.