Live Life Physiotherapy

Physical Therapy for Surgery; Is It Necessary?

As always, it depends.  Starting your rehab before surgery, also known as pre-habilitation, can be beneficial.

Many times physical therapy and surgery are looked at as two distinct options and it is true that physical therapists work to avoid invasive surgical procedures. However when necessary, the two can also compliment each other to obtain the best possible outcomes.

Post-surgical rehabilitation is physical therapy that is obtained after a surgical procedure to progressively load the tissue that was operated on and the surrounding area.  This might come in a hospital setting before you are discharged home or to a post-surgical rehab facility.  In these settings you can expect to work on getting out of bed, working on walking and endurance while ensuring you are safe to be at home.

Once discharged, you might also receive home health physical therapy in which the focus will be making sure you are safe in your home.  After someone is considered to be safe at home however, these kinds of therapies will end.

What Do I Do After Home Health Physical Therapy?

Some surgical procedures, like a rotator cuff repair, will require outpatient physical therapy post-surgical care. This is to ensure the optimal timing of stressing the rotator cuff to avoid complications. However other surgeries, like a spinal fusion, physical therapy at this point might not be as important because the tissue is “stable”.

When Should You See an Outpatient Physical Therapist?

Physical therapy helps you to manage pain and optimize your movement.  On top of ensuring appropriate stress on tissue as in a rotator cuff repair, outpatient physical therapists analyze your movement and learn your goals to optimize your recovery.

You likely developed ROM, strength deficits, and movement impairments due to avoiding pain from a painful hip or knee. Or maybe you are fearful of moving your low back or neck after a fusion because of the chronic pain.  Physical therapists can help you explore and learn movements that will maximize your life’s activities without fear of pain.

Below Are Conditions That Benefit From Physical Therapy:

How Long After Surgery Can You Start Physical Therapy?

Depending on your surgery and precautions, some physical therapy is started the same day in the hospital, while others require a little healing before starting.  Every surgery is different.  Ask your physical therapist and surgeon what the expectations are for your specific surgery.

Can I Do Anything Before Surgery To Help With Post Surgical Rehabilitation?

Absolutely!  The first thing that can optimize your recovery is learn all you can about the process.

Call a physical therapist and ask if there is anything that can be done before surgery.  Many times there are strengthening and mobility interventions that can be done prior to surgery that can improve your ability to recover optimally after surgery.  This might be a plan of care with your physical therapist or one visit to have exercises prescribed to perform before surgery.

Pain from a painful knee or hip may limit the ROM and mobility of the joint.  These impairments are almost always exacerbated after a total knee replacement (TKA) or total hip replacement (THA).  By maximizing your ROM before surgery, you will start at a better ROM after the surgery.  Pain may also limit strength.  By finding exercises with pre-habilitation that can help strengthen around the joint without exacerbating your pain, you can start rehabilitation stronger.

6 questions you should ask your surgeon and insurance company prior to surgery:

  1. How long will I be in the hospital?
  2. Are you expected to go to any step down facility like post acute rehab?
  3. How long is the expected recovery period?
  4. Will you receive home health physical therapy?
  5. What are your financial obligations for surgery and rehabilitation? (Really important one to check with insurance before any procedure)

How Is Mobile Outpatient Physical Therapy Helping Others Near You?

Home health physical therapy is provided for a short time after a surgery in many cases. However we have discovered a gap in service that many people following surgery are experiencing.  Many people that could be benefitting from outpatient services are limited in their ability to get to a clinic following surgery.

A recent client was frustrated because she was unable to drive after surgery, relying on a friend for transportation, and the physical therapy clinic was unable to work around her friend’s schedule.  Due to a delay in therapy she has very significant range of motion impairments, however she is progressing nicely with mobile therapy.  When we started she was unable to put any weight on her ankle and now she is walking around the room with a walker!


Depending on the nature of the surgery, a physical therapist will be an integral component to your recovery after surgery.  In our current healthcare system, you need to be assertive and proactive.  Establish a relationship with a physical therapist before surgery to make sure you are doing everything you can to optimize your recovery.  If it is a burden to get to an outpatient clinic, find a mobile physical therapist that can come to your house or office.


About Live Life Physiotherapy

At Live Life Physiotherapy, we are invested in your long game.  We offer coaching packages to help with accountability and progress towards your goals. Live Life Physiotherapy provides an COVID-19-friendly alternative to traveling to a physical therapy clinic, through mobile physical therapy. We provide outpatient care to San Diego, La Mesa, El Cajon, Santee, and the surrounding area.

Outpatient physical therapy includes but isn’t limited to; telehealth physical therapy, rehabilitation physical therapy, labral tears, sciatica, low back pain, elderly fall prevention, orthopedic and sports physical therapy. Reach out today so we can help you Live Life, the way you want to live it.

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