Post-Surgical Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation

Post-operative state

Surgery is a medical procedure used to treat a problem or, repair or modify some part of the body for better functioning and appearance. It is an intense measure as it requires cutting open the skin and multiple layers of muscles, which are then joined through stitches. Proper reunion of the incision happens after weeks and multiple stages of skin regrowth. Weakness and exhaustion are natural in this period of pain and discomfort. However, proper care post surgery can ensure a speedy and better recovery.

Post-operative physical therapy care has multiple aspects such as wound care to prevent infection, protection from injury, as well as careful movements to enhance the healing.

Importance of physical therapy rehabilitation

Scar formation is a part of healing. In an immobilized area, the scar tissue will have random fibers with no proper arrangement. With early mobility, the gentle pull induces the formation of parallel arranged muscle fibers that are more flexible than the irregular ones.

When scar tissues are contracted, they are highly prone to forming adhesions, which affects the muscle function.

In addition, muscles lose 3 grades of strength post-surgery. Therefore, to regain the lost strength, and to avoid the adhesions from long period of immobility, post-surgical physical therapy becomes an essential component of the rehabilitation process.

Passive range of motion exercises are started early after the surgery within a pain free limit for ideal scar tissue management. Moving on to active and then resistive exercises once the skin has joined completely. Light stretches to skin along the incision line are helpful in reducing the contracture, while the exercises prevent adhesions between the layers of muscles.

  • Musculoskeletal surgery, especially when involving joints, are subjected to continuous passive movement within 48 hours. This is crucial for synovial fluid flow and contracture prevention.
  • Post neurological surgery rehabilitation involves testing of reflexes and coordination, and exercises to improve coordination. Neurological physical rehabilitation follows a proper sequence similar to the developmental milestones in childhood because the brain has the memory and hence learns faster.

Pain and discomfort can lead to adaptation of abnormal movement patterns, which can continue even after full recovery and cause further problems with posture and alignment, which is why supervised rehabilitation must be continued until the patient has healed.

Bed rest, on the other hand, endangers a person to bed sores, deep venous thrombosis, and continual loss of strength. In contrast, early mobility after surgery enhances the blood flow to the area of incision and promotes healing. Any therapy works best if the patient themselves has a positive outlook. Counseling before and after surgery is helpful in this aspect. Patient motivation and compliance ensures a much faster recovery.

Dry Needling…What is it?

One of the most popular pain relieving therapies right now is dry needling, commonly referred to as trigger point dry needling. Patients find relief of many types of pain caused by muscle ‘knots’ or ‘trigger points’ and tightness in an area. Most commonly, physical therapists will use dry needling in addition to other therapies as a part of your treatment plan.

What can I expect during a dry needling session? Your physical therapist will insert very thin, dry needles into your “trigger points”. Trigger points are tender spots in the muscle created by prolonged or inappropriate contraction. Therapists are trained to locate your trigger points and appropriately place the dry needles where you need them the most.

How does inserting a needle help with pain? As described above, dry needles are placed according to your trigger points. The needle triggers a response in your body to allow blood flow to the area. Blood flow releases tension and relaxes trigger point muscle fibers, pain, pressure, and inflammation. According to Cleveland Clinic, the prick sensation can also fire off nerve fibers that stimulate the brain to release endorphins – the body’s own “homemade pain medication.”

Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?

While they seem similar, Acupuncture is a practice based on traditional Chinese medicine and is solely focused on altering the flow of Qi (energy). Dry needling is a westernized form of medicine and while similar needles are used during both therapies, dry needling is solely focused on pain and tension release.

Feel free to reach out to our clinics with any questions about this treatment