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Physical therapy after surgery is almost always recommended, but it’s not always the top priority for patients. Undergoing a surgical procedure can be traumatic, both physically and emotionally, so many people naturally focus on the operation itself and not the recovery. However, the rehabilitation process is just as important as a successful procedure when it comes to achieving a full recovery.   

The Benefits of Physical Therapy After Surgery

Physical therapy isn’t always comfortable or convenient, but it is an essential part of the recovery process. Bear these benefits in mind as you mentally prepare for the rehabilitation process after surgery:

Enhance the healing process

Although the body has the ability to naturally heal itself, it often needs help. Physical therapy can help you avoid complications such as scar tissue, limited range of motion, and loss of muscle mass. This will ultimately make the healing process go more smoothly. Physical therapists also have devices such as cold therapy systems, which help damaged tissues heal more quickly.

Regain mobility

Mobility doesn’t necessarily mean the ability to walk. Even if you undergo shoulder surgery, you will need to regain mobility in the affected joint so you can reach overhead and safely lift items. Physical therapy helps you regain mobility by strengthening the muscles surrounding the affected area, providing exercises to improve flexibility, and safely increasing range of motion as you heal.

Recover from surgery faster

A fast (but safe) recovery is a top priority, especially for active people and athletes. Participating in physical therapy helps you recover faster after surgery because your body can heal more quickly, and you may be able to do more sooner.

Recover safely and completely

Physical therapists are trained to help you recover safely, without creating other unwanted consequences. Without physical therapy, you could fall into bad habits that have long-term effects. For example, if you try to walk after a knee surgery without using proper form, you can create muscle imbalances that may permanently affect your gait. A physical therapist can help ensure that you do the right things to help you recover without complications.

What If You Do Not Do Physical Therapy After Surgery?

Picking up these types of bad habits is a good example of what can happen if you choose not to work with a physical therapist after surgery:  


Doing too much too soon or participating in activities that your body is not ready for can lead to re-injury that may set you back for weeks, months, or more. A physical therapist can provide guidance about what types of activities are appropriate for where you are in the recovery process. They will also show you how to safely perform daily activities and recommend exercises that can help you to quickly recover while avoiding re-injury.  

Prolonged recovery

Even if you manage to successfully avoid re-injury, you may still prolong your recovery if you don’t participate in physical therapy and therefore don’t receive the benefits of enhanced healing in the damaged tissues. Most people want to return to regular activity levels as quickly as possible after surgery. If this is one of your goals, physical therapy is essential.  

There are a lot of reasons people avoid physical therapy—fear, uncertainty, inconvenience, perceived cost, and more. However, the benefits far outweigh the risks when it comes to achieving a safe and fast post-surgery recovery.

If you are looking for a healthcare professional to provide physical therapy after surgery, make sure you ask the questions that will help you find the best fit. Our Checklist for Finding a Physical Therapist is a free resource that you can use to compare your options and select the right provider for your circumstances.

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