Millions of Americans undergo joint replacement surgery every year to help regain function in a joint that has deteriorated or been injured. All of these patients will be advised to undergo weeks of physical therapy following their operation, but you may be surprised to learn that physical therapy is also highly recommended prior to your joint replacement procedure. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why you should consider connecting with a physical therapist prior to your joint replacement procedure if you hope to experience the best results after the operation.
PT Before Joint Replacement Surgery
Physical therapy is oftentimes recommended as a treatment option to help address joint discomfort in the hopes that the technique will be able to prevent the need for a replacement operation altogether. For many people who begin physical therapy early and stay committed to an exercise routine, they can delay or avoid the need for a replacement procedure. If physical therapy isn’t leading to the results the patient had hoped for, they may need to have the joint replaced, but that doesn’t mean physical therapy should stop. In fact, if you’ve been told that you’ll need a knee, hip or shoulder replacement, oftentimes the best thing you can do for your future health is to continue a physical therapy regimen. Here’s why:
- Muscle and Tissue Strengthening – You might think, “why should I try to improve my joint if it’s just going to be replaced with an artificial joint during the replacement procedure?” That would be a valid criticism if we were actually targeting areas that would be removed during the procedure. However, pre-operative physical therapy will target the muscles and tendons that will help to hold the new joint in place once it’s inserted. The stronger your muscles and tendons are that surround the artificial joint, the better the area will function and the more stable the joint will be. You don’t need to wait until after the operation to start strengthening tissues that will be crucial to your joint’s health following the procedure.
- Range Of Motion Increases – Similarly, a physical therapist can help to expand your comfortable range of motion before surgery so that it will already be functionally improved after the operation. If tissues and structures are more flexible and able to handle certain movements prior to your procedure, they will be better prepared to handle these motions after your new joint has been inserted.
- Pain Control – Studies have also shown that preoperative physical therapy can help to manage pain after the procedure. You’ll still have discomfort regardless of whether or not you undergo pre-operative physical therapy, but because the area will be stronger and better able to handle stress, the pressure you put on it after your procedure won’t seem as daunting to the structures that have to help disperse this stress.
- Quicker Recovery Time – Another benefit of being physically stronger prior to your procedure is that you’ll likely need less physical therapy after your operation. One study found that pre-operative physical therapy was associated with a 29 percent reduction in post-op acute care services, which not only means that you have a quicker recovery time, but that will also help to cut down on costs associated with your operation and rehabilitation.
- Repetition Development – You’re also more likely to follow through with a physical therapy program following your joint replacement procedure if you’ve already undergone weeks of pre-operative physical therapy. Doing your exercises before surgery is habit forming, and because physical therapy is the best course of rehabilitation after surgery, forming good habits that increases your likelihood of fulfilling your PT requirements after an operation is extremely beneficial.
- Improved Blood Flow – Your joints and the structures that support them will also benefit from increased circulation and improved blood flow. Physical therapy not only gets your heart pumping, but it can also correct posture issues that may be contributing to decreased circulation. Physical therapy also can help to make you more mobile, and activity is a great way to improve healthy blood circulation in your body.
So if you’ve been told that you’ll likely need a joint replacement procedure in the future, don’t wait until after surgery is complete to start thinking about physical therapy. If you want to give yourself the best chance at the strongest functional improvements after surgery, talk to a physical therapist before your operation. To speak with a team of dedicated physical therapists in the greater Twin Cities area, reach out to OrthoRehab Specialists today at (952) 922-0330.