Physical therapists most often treat patients before and after orthopedic surgeries such as hip and knee replacement, or repair of badly broken bones.
The purpose of pre- & post- operative rehabilitation is to provide a rapid recovery utilizing the best possible exercise programs. Therapists maintain close communication with the physician in order to fully understand what the patient is undergoing and to prepare an individual treatment plan.
The pre-op visit accomplishes many things. Patients are able to meet the therapist who will plan their post-operative care and ask questions about their upcoming care. The pre-op visit is also an opportunity for the patient to practice with post-surgery walking aids such as crutches, cane or a walker. The therapist will explain what the post-operative exercises will be like and talk to the patient about practicing them as soon as he or she feels able. Exercising as soon as possible ensures that the joint stays mobile and its strength is maintained or increased. Most therapists conduct several tests on patients to determine their physical capabilities and plan the best possible program. Items a therapist will judge and share with the patient’s physician include:
- Muscle and joint strength
- Walking ability
- Independence within the home
Post-operative care begins as soon as the patient returns home. Thanks to the benefits of the pre-op visit, the therapist and patient can begin working on recovery exercises immediately. How often the patient visits the physical therapy clinic will depend on the individual needs of each patient. Some physical therapist care plans include:
- Range of motion exercises to keep joints mobile
- Strengthening exercises
- Movements in and out of bed and onto different types of chairs
- Self-care techniques for bathing, dressing and more
- Walking training, including stairs and curbs
- Community access, including learning how to negotiate elevators
- Enter and exit buildings
- Getting in and out of cars
- A home exercise program that the patient can do independently by following written instructions from the therapist
The goal of any physical therapy program is to help patients recover as much of their post-operative abilities as possible. Recovery programs will last as long as each patient is in need and will be tailored to fit each person’s abilities.
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