Post-Operative Physical Therapy Crucial to Full Recovery: Physical Therapy Specialist Frank Zalesny Offer 6 Ways Physical Therapy Helps Patients Heal

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According to Frank Zalesny, DPT, physical therapy is essential to fully recovering from surgery to treat or correct problems within the hip, knee, shoulder, hand, wrist, neck, spine, ankle or foot.

Physical therapy, or PT, is essential to fully recovering from surgery to treat or correct problems with the hip, knee, shoulder, hand, wrist, neck, spine, ankle or foot.

Undergoing orthopaedic surgery may be just one of the steps toward healing from injury, trauma or chronic pain. But seldom is surgery the last step: That’s when a patient’s work is often just beginning. Physical therapy, or PT, is essential to fully recovering from surgery to treat or correct problems with the hip, knee, shoulder, hand, wrist, neck, spine, ankle or foot, according to Frank Zalesny, DPT, staff physical therapist at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group, PLLC.

“Surgery alone is usually not enough to help a patient regain motion and do all the things they did beforehand,” explains Zalesny. “Physical therapy is often the most important factor in recovering their health, and one step that shouldn’t be skipped if they expect to go back to their normal activities. Additionally, PT can prevent some of the complications linked to bed rest after surgery, including bedsores and blood clots.”

Research backs up not only the importance of aggressive PT, but also of strong motivation on the part of patients to push through to achieve the best results. In a 2012 study on patients who underwent joint replacement surgery on their hip or knee – highly common surgeries nationwide – those who began physical therapy on the day of their operation averaged shorter hospital stays. Meanwhile, 2010 research suggests that patients who were more committed to physical therapy after hip resurfacing, another prevalent procedure, returned to higher levels of function and were more satisfied after surgery.

“Even before surgery, you’ll be told what to expect after the procedure and may be tested to measure your strength and range of motion as a baseline,” says Zalesny. “This will help develop goals for physical therapy after the operation.”

What does therapy include?
PT is typically broken down into separate phases that, over time, help you return to your previous activity level. Depending on the type of operation performed, your surgical area may be kept immobile just after surgery to allow swelling and post-operative pain to subside. From there, exercises gradually pick up intensity and frequency. Typical elements of PT include:

  •     Exercises to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility
  •     Posture, balance and coordination training
  •     Gait analysis and training
  •     Pain reduction strategies
  •     Massage
  •     Cold & hot therapy
  •     Electrical stimulation
  •     Instruction on exercises that can be done at home

6 reasons PT works

Regaining your functional mobility is the main goal of physical therapy. But how does that happen? According to Zalesny, here are the main ways PT helps patients fully heal:

  •     Restores strength, flexibility and mobility
  •     Alleviates pain without medication
  •     Improves circulation
  •     Breaks up scar tissue
  •     Boosts stamina
  •     Protects the integrity of the surgical repair

Tempted to skip physical therapy? There are big and small ways to do it, from not going as often as recommended to ending sessions early. Here’s what you gain from PT and why skipping it can slow down your recovery:

  • Physical therapists don’t just help you exercise, they educate you on what exercises work best for you and why. Don’t deprive yourself of this critical information.
  • It’s easier to re-injure yourself if you don’t improve as much as possible in strength and flexibility. Don’t risk another injury.
  • Carefully targeted exercises, done over many sessions, usually lead to diminished pain. Quitting before the job is done leaves open the possibility that pain will return and/or worsen.

“Comprehensive physical therapy after an orthopaedic surgery improves the overall outcome for the patient,” Zalesny says. “The success of recovering from any surgery will be maximized by a patient’s willingness to work hard, and returning to a full life after orthopaedic surgery depends on how much time and effort patients put into PT.” All the physical therapists at Somers Orthopaedics have special expertise in orthopaedic conditions and treatment plans. Somers Orthopaedics has 4 onsite physical therapy locations, Carmel, Newburgh, Mt. Kisco and Hopewell Junction.

[Somers Orthopaedic Surgery &Sports Medicine Group, PLLC, founded in 1988, is one of the most comprehensive and specialized practices in the region.

Frank Zalesny, DPT, is a physical therapist with Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group.

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Melissa Chefec
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