Roadmap to Recovery: Developing an Effective Physiotherapy Plan for Post-Operative Rehabilitation

February 20th, 2024
Post-Operative Rehabilitation Treatment in Ontario

If you’re scheduled for orthopedic surgery, such as a total hip replacement or ACL repair, your physician has probably told you that full recovery will take a long time. While the initial healing phase may only require a few weeks, restoring full strength and mobility to your affected body part will take a lot longer–sometimes up to a year. Your physician has probably also told you that you’ll need to utilize post-operative rehabilitation and physiotherapy, and for good reason: physiotherapists, like the team at MEX Physio, are knowledgeable in both movement and the body’s musculoskeletal system. And after orthopedic surgery, you’ll definitely need some help moving!

While exercise forms the foundation of post-surgical physiotherapy, that doesn’t mean you can simply jump into a standard workout during rehabilitation. Our physiotherapists will develop a post-operative plan based on the stages of rehabilitation and your own needs and ability levels. A targeted, progressive program will ensure you build strength and mobility as safely as possible.

Furthermore, in the early stages of your recovery, our physiotherapists can help you manage pain and work toward your overall comfort. We can also help you know when you can return to your favorite activities without risking reinjury.

If you want to learn more about building an effective post-surgical rehabilitation program, keep reading–or schedule an appointment at our ON physiotherapy clinic today!

The Four Phases of Post-Operative Rehabilitation

No one undergoes major surgery and walks out of the hospital unimpeded afterward. A surgical procedure is immensely stressful to your body, and there are many factors your body has to address before you can be considered fully rehabilitated.

When the MEX Physio works with you to develop a post-surgical rehabilitation plan, we take the phases of rehabilitation into consideration. At each stage, your body works through different “repairs,” and our physiotherapists will suggest approaches and exercises appropriate for each.

  • Acute Phase (One Week After Surgery): The acute phase occurs immediately following your surgery. Your focus here is on letting the surgical site itself heal. You’ll need to manage pain and swelling while working on your range of motion and ambulating, including using assistive devices as needed.
  • Healing Phase (2-4 Weeks After Surgery): For most people, this is the stage at which you’ll begin outpatient physiotherapy. Your body is still healing from the surgery, but passive movement will help decrease potential restrictions on movement in the future. Working to reduce swelling and early activation of muscles are also common.
  • Movement Phase (4 – 7 Weeks After Surgery): As the name suggests, this is the phase at which you start a more active exercise program. During this phase, you will be instructed on more aggressive range of motion and mobility exercises. Your body requires regular movement to thrive, so while it may be uncomfortable, it is necessary. Avoiding movement during this phase can lead to chronic pain and other issues later.
  • Strengthening Phrase (8 Weeks After Surgery): By this phase, the surgical site has healed, but that doesn’t mean you’ve fully rehabilitated. The affected body part has lost strength and mobility thanks to the surgery and the injury or condition that led to surgery in the first place. Now is the time to intensify the strengthening program to restore it back to pre-surgical abilities and beyond.

Understanding the phases of rehabilitation is key to developing an effective post-surgical physiotherapy program. Each phase requires different types of exercises and approaches, and it’s important that your plan progress accordingly.

Attempting to skip or overlook one of these phases will only lead to injury, but never graduating beyond basic movements will prevent your body from achieving full rehabilitation, causing pain and mobility issues in the future.

What to Expect From Your MEX Physio Post-Operative Rehabilitation Program

Recovering from surgery is a multidisciplinary effort, and our physiotherapists will coordinate with your surgical team to ensure you’re receiving the best possible care. We’ll also get to know you and your rehabilitation goals during our initial appointment.

Most patients will begin their time with us during the healing phase. During this period, we tend to focus on manual therapy techniques, especially passive exercise, to help alleviate pain and for swelling control. During passive exercise, we guide your affected joint through its current range of motion, giving you the benefits of movement without worry about over-exertion.

We may also provide you with gentle exercises you can do at home–simple, that focus on increasing the joint’s range of motion. We can also help with pain management and swelling control during this stage through manual therapy techniques and modalities.

As you show signs of improvement, we’ll gradually increase the intensity of your exercises, including switching from passive to active exercise–that is, exercises you perform yourself (or with the help of one of our physiotherapists).

The sorts of exercise you’ll perform will depend on your surgery, but for the most part, they’ll focus on increasing your joint’s strength and range of motion. For example, if you underwent an ACL repair, which affects the knee, we’ll help you improve your ability to put weight on the affected leg.

Eventually, you’ll progress to the strengthening phase. At this point, we’ll focus more on functional movements and building overall strength, balance and coordination. For example, someone with an ACL repair will work on strengthening their lower body with progressive resistance exercises. But they’ll also work on balance training to ensure they regain their overall stability.

The last step of any good post-surgical physiotherapy program is a return-to-sport schedule. This helps you know when you can safely return to your favorite physical activities, but it also provides exercises to address any activity-specific movements you might need to relearn, plus any movement modification that might be necessary.

Start Your Rehabilitation Journey Today!

If you’re scheduled to undergo orthopedic surgery, it’s a good idea to start thinking about your post-surgical rehabilitation options now. The team at MEX Physio is happy to answer any questions you might have, including giving you more detailed information about rehabilitation programs for your specific condition.

To get started, request an appointment with us today.


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