In physical therapy, we treat a significant amount of patients after surgery. We find that some patients really respond well and bounce back quickly, while others may wish they never had surgery. We wanted to provide you with a check-list of some common things we recommend our patient’s look at prior to surgery in order to best maximize their outcomes.
- Educate Yourself: It is your body, make sure you have educated conversations with your health-care team and family prior to undergoing surgery about the benefits and risks of your procedure. You don’t need doctoral-level knowledge, but inquire what the surgeon plans to do when they operate and what the recovery would look like.
- Optimize ROM (range-of-motion): Keeping your joints moving via passive stretches provided by a physical therapist or a home exercise program are crucial to ensure your muscles do not adaptively tighten prior to surgery. Surgeons always tell us they see better results when a patient goes into surgery with full ROM. Research supports this as well, you’re more likely to resume your regular activities quicker if you have full ROM and strength prior to surgery.
- Address Weaknesses: Along with ROM, it’s crucial to maximize pain-free strength and function prior to surgery. For example, if you’re to undergo knee surgery, evidence tells us that patients who recover best are the ones with strong quad muscles prior to surgery. If you’re an athlete, take this time to keep moving but focus on sport-specific areas you struggled with previously.
- Behavioral Changes: There is a lot to unpack here, but in a nutshell, it is crucial to both your post-op recovery and your overall quality of life to ensure you’re getting adequate and sound sleep (meaning, no phones/screens at least one hour prior to bed-time), you’re cleaning up your nutrition and eating a well-balanced diet, and if you smoke you need to find some way to stop. Smoking can actually impair your body’s ability to heal itself, resulting in elevated pain levels, dehydration, and poor tissue healing after surgery.
- Pre-Operative Physical Therapy: The above check-list can be overwhelming to tackle on your own. It is our professional recommendation that if you’re considering non-emergent surgery for a musculoskeletal injury, try physical therapy first. You’ll put yourself in a position to maximize your outcomes after surgery, and in some cases, you may respond so well you can post-pone surgery altogether. Discuss the possibility with your family, physician, or local physical therapist to see if pre-operative PT will be right for you.
We wish you the best in health. If you have any questions please give us a call at 610-544-8500. Further information can be found at www.moveforwardpt.com and www.advanceaquaticpt.com . We hope to help you advance your health.
Cole Racich, PT, DPT, OCS
Board-Certified Orthopedic Specialist