A common response from patients when they come to OrthoKnox Physical Therapy the day after their surgery is “You want me to move today?” With most orthopedic surgeries, it is important to begin physical therapy (PT) as soon as possible to begin moving the joint and engaging muscles again. An exception to this is recovery after a massive muscle tendon repair or surgeries for broken bones. A typical first physical therapy appointment after a surgery involves a surgical dressing change, physical therapy evaluation, and treatment. Below is a brief overview of what is done during that first appointment and why.
Dressing change- The dressing your doctor applies after surgery is removed by the physical therapist to assess the incision site(s), post-operative bleeding or drainage, and patient education for post-operative incision care. During this time, we will further educate you on the procedures performed during surgery. Nearly all OrthoKnox patients are scheduled for a dressing change with a physical therapist.
Physical Therapy evaluation- A physical therapist will gather information from the patient including, but not limited to, medical history, cause of injury leading to surgery, past and current symptoms, and assess both the involved and uninvolved extremity. When looking at the body part you had surgery on, the physical therapist is not only interested in how the extremity looks but depending on your surgery, how the joint moves and muscles contract.
Treatment- The information gathered from the evaluation is then used to determine a plan of care. Typically, for upper extremity surgeries the first day includes the physical therapist passively moving your arm, whereas lower extremity exercises typically involve not only range of motion exercises but beginning gentle strengthening to engage the muscles. Research indicates that early range of motion in the surgical extremity helps minimize joint stiffness, muscle tightness, and decrease pain. Your physical therapist will also instruct you on exercises for you to perform at home and provide printed instructions with pictures. Home exercise plays a crucial role in recovery after surgery.
At the completion of the first visit the physical therapist will use the information gathered and your response to treatment to recommend how often you should attend physical therapy. The staff at OrthoKnox Physical Therapy is always happy to address questions you may have about what to expect for your physical therapy after surgery. If we can assist in any way please call us at 865-251-3044.
Written By: Laura McCallister, PT, DPT