4 steps to recovering from orthopedic surgery

If you have an illness or injury that requires orthopedic surgery, you might assume your aftercare consists only of rest and relaxation. While that might be the case for the first day or so, participating in physical therapy as soon as possible is the best way to restore mobility, strength, and range of motion after your surgery.

Whether you’re facing a complete joint replacement or minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure, a physical therapist can assist your recovery after orthopedic surgery through a customized rehabilitation program. After assessing your range of motion and function of the injury site, your physical therapist will craft a plan based on your abilities and goals and guide you through the four primary steps toward rehabilitation:

Step 1: Restoring motion

It’s important to restore motion as soon as possible in order to avoid reinjury or permanent loss of full motion. Rehabilitation is not an easy process, and restoring motion to an area that has been severely weakened by injury or surgery can be challenging and painful. Physical therapists will start the rehabilitation process with gentle assisted exercises such as moving the limb and stretching the soft tissues to relieve tension. Therapists can also employ certain treatments to help with discomfort and pain, such as hot and cold packs, electrical stimulation, and therapeutic ultrasound.

Step 2: Increasing active range of motion

Your active range of motion refers to how far you are able to move your joint. Muscle strength and flexibility are key components to your range of motion, and to help restore it in full, you will need active range of motion exercises. Active range of motion exercises are largely performed by the patient with little assistance from the therapist, and they’re important in order to keep muscles supple and functioning while increasing joint flexibility.

After you meet with your surgeon for a follow-up visit, you might be ready for assisted and active range of motion exercises. Depending on your specific condition, those might include:

  • Flexibility exercises: static stretching, contracting muscles, using resistance bands

  • Balance exercises: knee lifts, back kicks, side stepping, stairs, using a balance board

  • Proprioception exercises: leg presses, squats, lateral movements, exercises with eyes closed to improve sensory collaboration

  • Cardiorespiratory exercises: aerobics, using a stationary bike, walking, jogging

  • Exercises for vertigo and dizziness: Epley Maneuver, head tilts, half-somersaults

Some active range of motion exercises might be assigned to you to continue at home in between therapy appointments.

Step 3: Improving strength

Once you have restored your range of motion, you can concentrate on improving your strength around the affected area. Specific exercises may include progressive resistance exercise and lumbar/core strength exercise, and therapy often involves specialized equipment including resistance bands, foam rollers, therapy balls, balance and wobble boards, free weights, and treadmills.

Step 4: Restoring optimal movement

With improved strength and range of motion, the last step in your orthopedic surgery recovery is to restore your optimal movement so you can effectively and efficiently perform daily tasks at home. This fine-tuning of your range of motion and strength might involve occupational therapy, which helps your joints and muscles relearn how to perform simple tasks such as eating, bathing, grooming, housework, and walking up stairs. However, this last step is not necessarily the end of your recovery journey. Some of the exercises learned in physical therapy should be continued at home to keep your body strong and reduce the risk of reinjury.

Benefits of recovering in a skilled nursing facility

Many factors determine how long you will need rehabilitative care following orthopedic surgery, including the severity of your injury and how dedicated you are to completing the therapeutic program. One factor that can make the rehab process smoother and more comfortable is to spend your recovery period at a 5-Star skilled nursing facility. Some of the benefits of staying in a skilled nursing facility for the duration of your rehabilitation include:

  • Access to a full medical staff 24 hours a day

  • No need to travel

  • Comfortable accommodations in quality residential facility

  • Nutritious meals that can accommodate specific dietary needs

  • Amenities including concierge services, local transportation, salon and barber services, entertainment, games, and social functions

  • Focus on overall wellness, not solely physical therapy

Looking for a skilled nursing facility for post-surgery rehab? Call Bella Vista today.

At Bella Vista Health Center, our compassionate team of therapists and medical professionals will customize a treatment plan to meet your individual post-surgery needs while you recover in comfort. Give us a call at (619) 399-7920 to schedule a tour.