post surgical rehabilitation

What is post-surgical (post-op) physiotherapy rehabilitation

Post-op physio rehab is a very important component after you've had any kind of surgery. The most common surgery that physiotherapists get involved with is orthopaedic surgeries (joints and bones). However, after any kind of operation you will most likely experience some or all the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Swelling
  • Scar Tissue
  • Less than normal range of movement

Post-surgery physio rehab will help in the following ways:

  • to make sure that your recovery after the operation is as good as it can be
  • you can return to work, sport and life in general
  • you recover to your previous levels of function

Tissues and structures that were operated on take time to heal but working in partnership with your physio and surgeon will ensure that you recover safely and get back to your full physical potential.

Treatment methods include:

  • Hands-on treatment (mobilisations, stretches and muscle stimulation techniques)
  • Electrotherapy machines to promote healing and reduce swelling
  • Tailored exercises and home exercise programs
  • Giving you information about your surgery, recovery times and precautions going forward 

Why you need rehabilitation after surgery

You want to return to your normal life as soon as possible. The body, however, sometimes puts up a big red, roadblock. Surgery is traumatic, both physically and emotionally, and the brain kicks into gear to do what it was designed to: Protect the body. These protective mechanisms, unfortunately, may, in the long run, lead to more pain and problems if left untreated. What are some of these protective mechanisms?

  • To survive, most of the circulation is reserved for the brain heart and lungs. This leaves less circulation to heal the area where you have had an operation.
  • Your blood thickens to control bleeding. Apart from this being a risk for heart attacks and strokes it also decreases the circulation around the surgery area -  less circulation less oxygen. 
  • The area around the operation sites swells. This is partly because of the decrease in circulation (that normally helps to carry excess fluid away).
  • Breathing may also be quite shallow because of the state of survival your body is in.  Over and above that the anaesthetic also affects how effective you breathe. Shallow breathing leads to less oxygen circulating through the body.
  • The muscles around the surgery site tighten up to form a natural, protective brace around the area.
  • Swelling and pain cause the deep supporting muscles to become inactive and ineffective.

Why is physical rehab so important after surgery?

Looking at the above mechanisms that the body puts in place to protect itself after a trauma like surgery, the most significant effects happens around decreased circulation, swelling and deactivation of certain muscles.

Post-op physio rehab, first and foremost, is important to normalise circulation around the area that was operated on. Better circulation will bring more oxygen to the area to help it heal, it will help move the fluid away from that part of the body and it will prevent blood clots from forming that could be very hazardous to your future health.

Furthermore, post-operative physio rehabilitation will help loosen the muscles spasms. By releasing the muscles, you will immediately increase the range of movement of that joint, decrease pain and make it easier to move.

You have two types of muscles when it comes to movement: You have the big, strong mover muscles like your biceps or your quads. Then you have the deeper muscles closer to the joint whose job it is to support the joint for it to move freely. It is these deeper, supporting muscles that often shut down after surgery. They don't immediately become weak but the brain sort of forgets about them because it's focused on the bigger muscles that will help it survive (run away). With the supporting muscles not working the way it was designed to, there is a risk of the joint taking strain.

In summary, post-op physiotherapy rehab is important to get you moving safely, effectively, strongly and pain-free to prevent problems further down the line.

How can post-surgery physiotherapy benefit you?

Anyone who had any kind of surgery can benefit from post-surgery physiotherapy rehabilitation in the following ways:

  • Decreased pain
  • Help you return to your activities of Daily Living
  • Help strengthen you
  • Stretch tight and sore muscles
  • Improve your posture
  • Help you regain independence
  • Relieve anxiety through education
  • Provide you with an exercise program to optimise circulation and range of movement
  • Clear lung secretions to prevent chest infections with Chest Physiotherapy
  • Inform you about the necessary precautions to take

Closest surgery rehabilitation centres in Randburg

My name is Monique de Beer, a registered Physiotherapist and I consult from my practice located in Johannesburg-North at the Timron Health and Wellness Centre, that is a short distance drive from:

  • Douglasdale
  • Bryanston
  • Strydompark
  • Olivedale
  • Fourways
  • North Riding
  • Strydompark
  • Lonehill

If you recovering from any surgery and you in need of Physiotherapy rehabilitation, feel free to contact me to discuss the appropriate treatment or MAKE AN APPOINTMENT today.

Some of my articles you may find interesting:

Visit my Youtube Channel to see a video on