The effect of exercise on the outcomes after surgery has been extensively studied. Physical rehabilitation both before and after a surgery can substantially aid in the body’s ability to recover after surgery quickly and completely. With the guidance and support of medical professionals, integrating pre-surgical and post-surgical rehabilitation can mean getting back on your feet safely and more efficiently post surgery. Some common surgeries include:
- Post-hip replacement
- Post-knee replacement
- Post-cardiac surgery
- Post-abdominal surgery
- Other surgical groups such as colorectal, thoracic, post-cancer resection, vascular and urological.
Pre-surgical rehabilitation and post-surgical rehabilitation both have their own purposes and benefits:
Pre-surgical rehabilitation is the introduction of physical therapy before an upcoming surgery or procedure.The purpose of ‘pre-habilitation’ is to prepare the body for undergoing a challenging situation, aim for a smoother recovery and reduce likelihood of future complications. For example, if you are having knee reconstruction surgery, engaging in a few weeks of physical therapy exercise to maximise flexibility, strength and mobility in the knee can allow the knee to withstand the surgery easier and promote a smooth recovery.
Post-surgical rehabilitation is the re-introduction of physical therapy after surgery. It is really important to get moving again as soon as possible after surgery, to whatever degree is safe and beneficial. Prescribed exercises will help improve the way you move the part of your body where you had surgery and avoid future complications in the recovery process.
Benefits of exercise
So what exactly are the benefits of movement before and after surgery?
They include but are not limited to:
- Helping muscles regain strength and function
- Ensuring joints regain flexibility and range of motion
- Reducing discomfort by increasing blood circulation and encouraging fluid drainage
- Avoiding scar tissue which may cause future stiffness or pain
- Supporting a quicker and safer recovery
- Managing daily activities (climb stairs, get up from bed, get in and out of a car, get dressed)
More specifically, research provides evidence of the benefits of physical therapy for the following surgeries:
- Spinal surgery - improved spinal mobility
- Total Hip and Knee Replacement surgery - earlier discharge
- Colorectal surgery - increased cardiovascular fitness
- Breast surgery - fewer side-effects
- In many surgeries: reduced risk of blood clots
- Cardiac surgery - inspiratory muscle training on length of postoperative hospital stay and pulmonary function
Post surgical recovery can be a difficult time for many. Having less freedom, stuck in your bedroom for days or weeks. Post surgical rehabilitation can get you moving, even in a small way, to make those tough times a little more bearable and essentially help you regain balance after an extended period of rest.
What to do next
If you are getting ready for a surgery, speak to your doctor about pre and post surgery rehabilitation. You can get a referral to an exercise physiologist to get an assessment before starting ‘pre-habilitation’.