Should Physical Therapy Be Done Before Or After Surgery?

by / Thursday, 16 January 2020 / Published in Blog, Sports Medicine

Many people will go through physical therapy at least once in their lives, and often more than once.  Physical therapy is performed by a professional and consists of the evaluation, assessment, and treatment of those people with limited mobility.  The goal of physical therapy is to gain as much mobility as possible.  Sometimes full mobility is able to be restored, and sometimes it is not.  It highly depends on the patient’s injury and their commitment to physical therapy protocols at home.  Physical therapy can be done before and/or after surgery.  The most important part of physical therapy is consistency.

 When it comes to surgery, many physicians take a conservative approach.  The goal of this is to avoid surgery if possible by offering patients less invasive, conservative alternatives.  One of these traditional treatment options is physical therapy.  When patients visit their doctor complaining of knee pain, shoulder pain, or back pain, a prescription for physical therapy may be written.  The goal is to have the patient attend physical therapy consistently for a couple of months in the hope that it will build up muscle, and foster enough movement that the patient is comfortable.  However, sometimes physical therapy alone is not enough, and surgery is required.

            Surgery can be required for a variety of reasons.  Oftentimes it is required because there is a physical problem that is causing pain.  This can be a torn ligament or wear and tear on the cartilage between joints.  Surgery is typically avoided as long as possible because it is not always guaranteed to resolve pain.  However, when it is required, physical therapy is almost always prescribed to help patients make the best recovery they can.  Patients who end up going to physical therapy regularly and doing exercises at home tend to make the best recoveries.

            Surgery takes a toll on the body.  While surgery is meant to fix something that is already wrong, it can make a problem worse if a patient does not follow their doctor’s physical therapy instructions.  Physical therapy is absolutely required after surgery because it helps the patient to remain mobile, build up strength, and gain the maximum use of the body part again.  While physical therapy is not guaranteed to restore full mobility, it will definitely provide more mobility than a patient would have without physical therapy.

 At the end of the day, physical therapy can be done before or after surgery, or both.  It is done before surgery in an attempt to avoid surgery.  It is done after surgery to help patients regain as much mobility as possible.  The most important part of physical therapy is following your doctor’s orders for how often you should go, and following your physical therapist’s orders about what exercises you should do at home.  One of the best predictors of the success of physical therapy is how consistent the patient is with therapy.  Patients who are committed to strengthening their body, and regaining more function, are typically the patients that end up seeing the best results. 

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