Pre-operative orthopedic injuries

Physical therapists can help patients in advance of many orthopedic surgeries such as hip and knee replacement, or repair of fractures.

Research has shown that pre-operative therapy can make a significant difference after surgery, speeding healing and helping the patient achieve a full recovery with full-range of motion. It also can decrease the chance of post-operative complications.

Usually a therapist keeps in close contact with a patient’s physician in order to understand the pending procedure and to craft an individualized treatment plan to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and maintain fitness before an operation. Sometimes therapy can begin months before an operation. If a patient will be using crutches during recovery, for example, it’s beneficial to build up upper body strength before surgery.

Other times therapy will begin just a week or two before surgery. Advantages of pre-operative therapy include:
Pre-operative therapy educates a patient, providing an opportunity to learn about and prepare for post-operative care. The physical therapist will also help a patient become familiar with the tools and equipment they may need after an operation, such as a cane, crutches or a walker.

Pre-operative therapy teaches about necessary exercises. With advance therapy, a patient has a chance to learn about post-operative steps during recovery, teaching the proper posture and body mechanics necessary for success, as well as associated treatments such as the use of ice.

Pre-operative therapy builds confidence. Following surgery, a patient will feel much more confidence at the beginning of treatment, For many patients, knowing what to expect after an operation can alleviate anxiety before surgery.

Pre-operative therapy creates a partnership. Since post-operative physical therapy is often the key to complete recovery, it can provide a patient an opportunity to get to know the physical therapist who will be their partner in the journey back to health.

During pre-operative visits, many therapists conduct tests to gauge a patient’s physical capabilities and plan the most effective post-operative program. These tests may evaluate muscle and joint strength and the patient’s independence within the home.

The visits also provide a baseline of data including the location and severity of pain, functional abilities, strength, range of motion and breathing pattern. An assessment will be made of any needs the patient has at home (e.g., equipment, safety adaptations) after surgery.

It’s important to share as much as possible with the therapist, which allows the therapist to plan the most effective program to fit a patient’s needs.