Physical therapy helps recovery from joint replacement surgery

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

For many people, joint replacement surgery becomes the best strategy to reduce pain and increase mobility. How you recover after surgery plays a vital role in getting back to your regular activities.

At Bon Secours, physical therapy guides you through the critical weeks and months of your recovery process from joint replacement surgery. In fact, you’ll start physical therapy before you head home from the hospital.


As experts in human movement, physical therapists use specific exercises tailored to each patient’s needs to help the body heal, regain its mobility, strength and endurance.


“There’s a lot that goes into recovering from joint replacement surgery,” said Michael D. Hathaway, a physical therapist and clinical supervisor for Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center. “It’s extremely important to have a specialist to help guide you through the process of restoring normal movement and to prepare you to return to your regular daily activities.”


Roughly one million people have hip or knee replacement surgery every year. Usually, this type of procedure is only recommended when other conservative measures don’t sufficiently improve pain.

Everyone recovers from joint replacement surgery at their own pace. In general, however, physical therapy for knee and hip replacement surgery lasts one to two months. If you’re having shoulder replacement surgery, you can expect a longer recovery with three to six month of physical therapy.


Here are three ways physical therapy helps your joint replacement surgery recovery:


Expert guidance.


While risks of problems after joint replacement surgery are much lower than they used to be, patients still need to make sure they follow specific instructions to avoid loosening or dislocating the new joint. Certain positions and movements should be avoided at all costs to prevent harming your recovery. Working with a physical therapist helps ensure you understand what’s allowed and what isn’t.


For some joint replacement surgeries, such as total knee replacement, recovery is a race against the clock. There’s only so much time to make sure the joint heals properly. A physical therapist can help you make sure you’re bending the joint enough but also protecting it at the same time. Physical therapists also can tell you how much pain is considered a normal part of the healing process. Avoiding pain all together can lead to developing scar tissue, which makes it harder for the new joint to move properly.


Stronger muscles, increased mobility.


Using their knowledge of the musculoskeletal system, physical therapists understand the roles muscles play to allow joint movement. After shoulder surgery, certain muscles may have new roles in how they stabilize the joint. A physical therapist can help you learn how to move in a new way. Physical therapy ultimately helps you strengthen muscles and improve your range of motion.


Knowledge of self-care.


By the end of your sessions, your physical therapist will develop an exercise program for you to follow that’s specific to your needs.


“They develop that exercise plan with you to empower you to continue on your own,” Hathaway said. “Our goal is for you to be confident to continue your recovery.”

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