Orthopedic Rehab: The What, The Why, And The How

Orthopedic rehab is a form of therapy that treats a large variety of conditions that affect the skeletal and muscular systems. Therapists diagnose, manage, and treat injuries of the musculoskeletal system including rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery, and is most often found in the out-patient clinical settings such as nursing home rehabilitation centers.

orthopedic rehab


Orthopedic Rehab:  The What


Orthopedic rehab effectively treats injuries such as neck and back pain, shoulder tendinitis, and knee and ankle sprains. It is also good for post-surgery patients who have had  spinal fusion surgery, hip replacement, and ankle reconstructions. Orthopedic rehab is also effective in patients that have had  shoulder replacements, rotator cuff repairs, and knee surgery.

An orthopedic therapist evaluates the patient during the first initial office visit to determine the patient’s range of motion, his posture, and how much he or she can function when moving. A treatment plan is then made based on the patient’s pain tolerance, muscle condition, and ability.


Orthopedic Rehab: The Why


On average, therapy sessions generally last 30-60 minutes. Rehab sessions include stretching, manual therapy and exercises, as well as educating the patient on his condition. Having one-on-one sessions with a therapist helps the patient to gain a better knowledge of his injury.

Orthopedic rehab improves the patient by strengthening the muscles around the affected joint, as well as improving joint movement.


Orthopedic Rehab: The How


Improve how well your joint moves. Your physical therapist may call this increasing your “range of motion.” After knee surgery, for instance, you may have pain and swelling that makes it hard to stretch the joint. Your therapist will lead you through exercises to help you bend and straighten it. You may also need to use a type of equipment called an isokinetic machine that does the work for you. Riding a stationary bike can also help.

Strengthen your muscles . Before your surgery, joint pain may have slowed you down and made you weaker. Your therapist will show you exercises that make you strong again so you can walk more easily, without pain.

If you’ve had a hip replacement, you’ll work on your “abductors,” the muscles that help you coordinate your movements for all kinds of things, such as walking, dancing, or getting in and out of a car. At first, your therapist will have you extend your leg outward while you stand. Later, you’ll do it while you lie down and work against gravity.

To strengthen the muscles around your knee, your therapist will have you do exercises like quad sets. For these, you lie on your back, with your legs straight, and then tighten your muscles by pushing the back of your knees into the floor. Other exercises may include straight leg raises and knee extensions.

Improve your balance. Your therapist may time you as you stand first on one leg and then the other, or have you try balance games on the Wii Fit.

Orthopedic Rehab: Phase Three, Back in Action


Everybody’s different, and everyone’s joints recover at a different rate. But in general, you’ll be in a formal rehab program for about 6 to 8 weeks. Before you “graduate,” your therapist will bring you up to speed on skills like getting on and off an escalator, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of a car.


Orthopedic Rehab: Conclusion


You’re ready now to head back to work and get back to the activities you enjoy, from playing sports to shopping ’til you drop. But keep up with any at-home exercises your therapist suggests. Your hard work will pay off and you and your newly rehabilitated joint or muscle should be better than ever.

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