Even when it is carefully and successfully performed, surgery is a significant undertaking for our body. It can take weeks or months for a person to fully heal after their operation, and there are a number of different options they can pursue to help expedite healing. However, we have to be careful not to fall into bad habits during this crucial stage of recovery, otherwise we can end up jeopardizing our surgery and our health.
One such pitfall we work with patients to help them avoid is the overreliance on opioids following a surgical operation. We understand that you may be uncomfortable, and painkillers can certainly play a role in helping you heal, but turning to them over other options can inhibit your rehab. Below, we explain why physical therapy should be the crux of your rehab, not opioids.
PT And Opioids After Surgery
There are two constants that are typically present after every orthopedic surgery procedure – Physical therapy will be ordered, and the patient will have some pain or discomfort while healing is taking place. Physical therapy helps to strengthen key structures and drive home a faster recovery, whereas pain management only works to control symptoms of discomfort after surgery. As we’ve preached on the blog in the past, we always want to be targeting the underlying cause with our treatment options, because treating the symptoms won’t lead to long term recovery.
Physical therapy targets the underlying cause of your pain and the reason you needed surgery in the first place, whereas opioids target the pain symptoms you’re feeling as a result of the operation. Again, that’s not to say that opioids have no role in an effective rehabilitation plan, because used correctly, they can help quell discomfort or pain so that it’s easier to perform your daily strength training exercises. But if we assume that time heals all wounds and that we just need to keep taking painkillers until healing runs its course, not only will we not experience the fullest recovery possible, we also open the door to more devastating outcomes, like addiction or overdose.
One of the challenges many people face when confronting a rehab plan after surgery is that it is so much easier to take a pill and mask the pain than to dive head first into a physical therapy program. Taking a pill and lying in bed is easy, but it’s not ideal for your body. Over time, your muscles will atrophy, scar tissue can develop and you’ll miss out on this crucial stage for establishing and expanding range of motion at the surgical site.
On the flip side, there is physical therapy, which can help you do all that and more. When we’re working with our patients, we’re monitoring their every move and asking questions along the way to ensure we know how their body is responding to treatment. It won’t always be easy, but we can promise you that if you put in the time and effort, it will be rewarding. You’ll be rewarded with more physical function, more independence and a higher quality of life, all while avoiding the potential negative consequences of opioid overreliance.
So if you have recently undergone an operation or you have an elective surgery coming up in the future, start thinking about your physical therapy options now. You only get one body, so do everything in your power to get it back to peak physical performance with a strength training and exercise program. For more information, or to set up an appointment, give our team a call today at (612) 339-2041.