Physiotherapy For Post-Surgical Rehabilitation

Physiotherapy for Post-Surgical Rehabilitation

Do you have a surgery planned for the near future? Or have you already been under the knife? Either way, an essential part of your recovery is physiotherapy. In this article, we’ll discuss why physiotherapy is necessary post-op and what you should expect.

Why Needed?

There are many types of surgeries that require physiotherapy afterward. Though many may think that only those who have undergone orthopaedic surgery need physiotherapy, it has been shown that patients who have undergone other major procedures such as cardiac operations, transplants, abdominal surgery, neurological surgery, etc, have benefited from physiotherapy as well. Due to the lengthy recovery time required from some of these surgeries, physiotherapy goes a long way in assisting you to get you up, moving and living again. Physiotherapy is sometimes overlooked by patients as unnecessary. In fact, it should go hand in hand as part of the healing process after many surgeries. Listed below are some benefits of physiotherapy for post-surgical rehabilitation: Increases mobility and function for muscles and joints Improves posture and balance Corrects imbalanced compensations of the body Decreases the risk of blood clots post-surgery by promoting good circulation Trains patients how to adjust post-operatively for activities of daily living Provides specialized stretches and exercises to build strength Assists with pain control via manual therapy, electrotherapy, etc.

What Can I Expect?

Most likely you can expect a visit from a physical therapist during your stay in the hospital post surgery. Depending on your surgery, they will most likely assist you with getting out of bed, walking, sitting and standing properly, etc. After your initial recovery phase in the hospital, you can expect a physical therapist to do a more thorough evaluation and give you a set of exercises to perform under their care, and throughout the day, as part of your rehabilitation regimen. Listed below are some major surgeries that require physiotherapy:

Cardiac Surgery

Usually, a physiotherapist will encourage chest exercises involving deep breathing and range of motion exercises. They will provide advice on what to do if you need to cough or sneeze, as this can be very painful. The goals of physiotherapy, in this case, are to prevent any post-operative complications, improve lung function, and encourage physical activity.

Abdominal Surgery

Laparoscopic and open abdominal surgeries will require in-hospital physiotherapy for breathing exercises to reduce lung complications and to assist in the basic activities of daily life such as sitting up, standing up, walking, etc. Depending on your surgery, your physiotherapist will provide a list of dos and don’ts post-op, and gradual exercises to strengthen your core and promote mobility.

Orthopaedic Surgeries

Knee Surgeries

There are a variety of conditions that would necessitate a knee or its surrounding structures to require surgery. Some common knee surgeries are: torn meniscus repair, ACL reconstruction, full or partial knee replacement, etc. Generally speaking, for each surgery the exercises will vary, and they will increase in intensity as each week passes, gradually building up mobility and strength. There will be certain limitations placed on the knee joint by the surgeon to prevent disrupting any repairs made. This necessary action will cause some stiffness to develop, but physiotherapy is aimed at mobilizing soft tissue structures and gradually and safely progressing with a range of exercises to improve function. Physiotherapy will address muscle conditioning, proprioception, as well as ways to manage pain and swelling.

Shoulder surgeries

Common surgeries include rotator cuff repair and a variety of arthroscopic surgeries to repair damaged tendons or cartilage. Early mobilization will be encouraged to prevent stiffness and speed up recovery time. The use of a sling will mostly likely be utilized, as well as ways to decrease inflammation and swelling. Your physiotherapist will provide specialized plans, encouraging range of motion exercises that gradually increase in range and will also focus on related structures to the shoulder such as the elbow and hand of the affected side.

Back surgeries

Common back surgeries include fracture repair, discectomy, laminectomy, spinal fusion, etc. Most likely, physical therapy will have begun prior to surgery, and will continue afterward as well. The goals are to promote early mobilization such as walking, transferring from the bed to a chair, or climbing stairs. Patients usually become quite stiff and need manual therapy to loosen stiff joints. Exercises will promote the strengthening of core muscles and stretching of related musculature such as hamstrings. Typically, the exercises will advance from an acute phase to a regular maintenance phase. Physiotherapy will provide advice on what to avoid, and how to adjust the way you once performed daily activities in order to prevent a re-injury. Pain control methods are also an important factor in physiotherapy, such as electrotherapy, cold treatments, acupuncture, and massage.

Bone Fractures

These could include any part of the body such as hands, feet, ankles, arms, legs, etc. Depending on the nature of the fracture, some will require the use of plates or screws, and periods of immobilization while the fracture sets. Casts, slings, and crutches are commonly used as well. During the immobilization period, a physiotherapist will provide appropriate range-of-motion exercises and methods to decrease swelling. Following the immobilization period, a physiotherapist will focus on strengthening and improving mobility that was lost during periods of inactivity and disuse.


While the surgeries listed are by no means exhaustive, it does give an idea of the importance of physiotherapy in the rehabilitation process. From breathing to walking, physiotherapy encompasses the well being of the entire person, not just the area that was operated on. If you are ever scheduled for surgery, or have to have one unexpectedly, the professionals at Complete Care Physiotherapy are here to help.