Orthopaedic Rehabilitation

What is Rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation is a form of exercise that enables individuals to get back to full function post injury, post-surgery or after coming out of plaster. It also involves Physiotherapy, which can help reduce post op symptoms such as pain, swelling and stiffness and help expedite the healing process.

Why is it so important?

It is normal to experience some pain, swelling and stiffness post-surgery/injury. It can then be instinctive to protect and rest the injured part. When we experience pain our body automatically goes into protective mode, and we rest and protect the injured part. However, Post-surgery we often have to push through that pain in order to make progress and get the best from the surgery. It can be difficult to judge yourself how much to ‘push’ things so you will need guidance from your Physio or Consultant.

Main Aims of Rehabilitation

  • Regain full range of movement at the joints involved
  • Re-educate walking pattern to achieve normal gait. This may involve the continued use of walking aids for a time.
  • Regain balance and proprioception to the injured side.
  • Regain muscle strength and stability to the injured area.
  • Help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Regain full function including returning to sport if appropriate.

What happens if we don’t fully rehabilitate?

If we don’t properly rehabilitate post-surgery or injury, we can be left with residual problems such as:

  • Joint stiffness – This can lead to pain over time and a change in bio mechanics which can put stress on other parts of the body.
  • A limp or change in gait
  • Reduced function
  • Pain – If muscles are still weak and the joint is unprotected then this can cause pain.
  • Persistent swelling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle shortening

What is involved in rehabilitation post-surgery or injury?

Some orthopaedic surgery will have very specific post op protocols that need to be followed and progressed as appropriate. There will be milestones to reach and once these have been achieved exercises will be progressed. This will need to be done under the supervision of a Physiotherapist.

Soft tissue injuries and fractures will be dictated by healing times. Muscles tend to heal fairly quickly due to good blood flow, ligaments and tendons take longer sometimes up to 12 weeks to be completely healed. Again, progress of exercises will be dictated both by time and milestones reached. For example a knee needs to flex more than a 100° before there is enough flexibility to cycle. Walking needs to be ‘normal’ and pain free before running is considered. Muscles absorb shock and protect joints when we walk and run, so adequate muscle strength needs to be regained before too much exercises is carried out.

Different treatment modalities can be used to accelerate and optimise rehab.

This includes:

  • Joint mobilisation
  • Taping/strapping to support or off load joints and facilitate muscles.
  • Electrotherapy, including muscle stimulators.
  • Manual soft tissue/fascial therapy such as massage and stretching
  • Exercise therapy

Be sure to regain full function as quickly as possibly following injury or surgery and see your Physio for help and advice.