Recovering after surgery can be a long road, but just how long may depend on how you approach post-surgical rehabilitation.

Surgical teams often prescribe post-surgical physiotherapy to their patients, with some even recommending beginning treatment before surgery, so there is no delay in getting started.

But what is post-surgical physiotherapy, and why is it so important to your rehabilitation?

  1. Post-Surgical Physiotherapy Helps Reduce Scar Tissue

One of the most painful and unforeseen long-term consequences of surgical procedures is the build-up of excess scar tissue. Surgical scar tissue lingers long after the incision has healed, affecting your movement, flexibility, and comfort.

Once formed, treating scar tissue can be a long and painful process, sometimes even requiring further surgery to correct. While physiotherapy techniques like massage can be effective in breaking up existing scar tissue, a better way is to engage in post-surgical physiotherapy as soon as possible to help prevent scar tissue from forming.

  1. Get Moving Faster (and Safely) With Post-Surgical Physiotherapy

There is something to be said for taking it easy after a surgical procedure and allowing your body time to heal; however, long periods of laying down are generally not recommended. It may sound counter-intuitive, but as long as your surgical team has given the ok, you can start moving your body within 24 hours of surgery.

Numerous studies on the subject have found that patients who get moving sooner after surgery experience better outcomes and improved recovery times. For that reason, many surgeons recommend that post-surgical physiotherapy begin 24 hours post-op.

  1. Physiotherapists are Highly Trained Professionals in Their Field

While you can slowly begin rehabilitation at home, physiotherapists are trained experts with in-depth medical knowledge of all things related to movement and the body, including diagnosing and treating post-surgical patients.

During your initial consultation, your physiotherapist will evaluate your current movement and limitations and gather details about your procedure and medical history. Armed with this information, they will assemble a post-surgical physiotherapy plan tailored to your unique situation. This plan will be dynamic, changing as you progress through several stages of rehabilitation.

What to Expect from Post-Surgical Physiotherapy

So how exactly do physiotherapists help with post-surgical rehabilitation? While precise techniques will depend on several elements, including the nature of the injury, current mobility limitations, and other health-related factors, some common practices you can expect to be part of your recovery plan. Physiotherapists will often use a combination of techniques, including:

  • Massage
  • Manual manipulation
  • Stretching
  • Strengthening exercises

Post-Surgical Physiotherapy in Stages

But what is always true is that post-surgical physiotherapy progresses in stages.

There are three stages to post-surgical rehabilitation, starting with the recovery phase and continuing through the restoration phase. There is no standard timeline for post-surgical physiotherapy; each patient will progress at their own pace.

During the recovery phase, the primary focus of your post-surgical physiotherapy will be managing pain and swelling. This phase will generally consist of gentle movements and light exercise (this could even mean just standing or assisted walking).

Once the pain and swelling are under control, the next phase of your post-surgical physiotherapy will focus on improving your range of motion and strengthening exercises. The goal is to mobilize and strengthen affected joints and muscles so they don’t become stiff or painful.

The last stage of post-surgical physiotherapy is the functional restoration phase. Here your physiotherapy will become more aggressive, with an increased focus on building strength and restoring full range of motion, depending on your personal goals.

There are no one-size fits all path to post-surgical rehabilitation, but working with the right physiotherapist can make the journey easier to travel.