We were fortunate to be able to interview Kevin Black, from Physical Therapy Solutions and ask him about the role physical therapy plays in a typical post-orthopedic surgery:

1. What role does physical therapy play in a typical post-orthopedic surgery?
Post op physical therapy can be grouped into three phases. The first phase is immediate post-operative.
PT’s primary focus would be to handle secondary effects from the surgery itself. Controlling pain and swelling, and patient education are the primary goals here with heavy emphasis on patient education. The need to protect the surgeons work is vitally important. The second phase begins restoring muscle function and regaining motion under safe parameters of the given procedure. Finally, the third phase is regaining full motion and muscle function, as well as returning to activity levels prior to surgery.

2. What is the communication like between the physical therapist and the orthopedic surgeon prior to and during treatment?
Communication between surgeon and therapist is crucial for good outcomes. On the therapy side, knowledge of specifics of surgical procedure, if there were any complications, or any specific adjustments to treatment protocol are paramount.
On the surgeon’s side, appropriate feedback of the patient progress allows the surgeon to implement interventions to aid the therapy process if necessary to ensure a positive outcome.

3. What’s the first thing you tell a new patient who has never experienced the process of physical therapy?
Education of the patient is very important. We want the patient to be informed of their diagnosis, identify the roots of the problem (in non operative patients), surgical procedure, as well as why physical therapy will play a role in their outcome.
Also, timeframe of treatment as well as importance of home exercise plan are discussed as well.

4. Is there a mindset or an approach that patients should adopt prior to starting the healing process?
Patience is key here, as well as a willingness to work towards specific goals. In post-op patients, setting and meeting goals, both big and small, aid in the recovery process and keep patients moving in a positive direction.

5. What are the biggest obstacles to healing that you routinely see?
The biggest obstacles to healing often lie in compliance to post operative instructions. Not adhering to post op precautions can hinder the healing process and possibly damage the work done by the surgeon. Also, patients trying to do too much to fast. Understanding the entire healing process can help with this, but often patients are very eager to get back to prior levels of activity and can get into trouble by rushing back

6. What are people most surprised about when it comes to the process of physical therapy?
In most non-operative, non-trauma injuries, it surprises most patients that the root of the problem is not directly where the pain is located. The pain is just a symptom of the problem. (Example: knee pain caused by a hip or foot mechanical problem). With a thorough exam, the therapies should be able to identify mechanical problems, poor movement patterns, or motion restrictions that could be the root cause of the problem.

7. What should patients ask you?
As many questions as possible. Communication is key. It’s vitally important the patient completely understand why therapy is important when it comes to positive outcomes. By asking questions, it increases the likelihood the patient and therapist are on the same page.