In an attempt to preserve supplies and resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, many U.S. hospitals and medical institutions have opted to postpone elective surgeries.
This includes non-emergency surgeries scheduled to relieve pain and repair injuries related to the musculoskeletal system – arthroscopy, ligament and tendon repairs, joint replacement surgeries, and so on.
Despite these delays, Kitsap County physical therapist Jennifer Briant says those whose surgeries were delayed need not sit back and suffer.
“Physical therapy can be a proactive way to reduce pain while increasing mobility and function until surgeries can be rescheduled,” said Briant, PT, DPT, of Kitsap Physical Therapy and Sports Clinics, with seven clinics throughout Kitsap County.
The goal of physical therapy, Briant said, is to help people improve their quality of lives by optimizing movement and reducing pain naturally.
“In a lot of cases, we can help people avoid the need for surgery,” Briant added. “But, even if surgery is in your future, we can help you live a more comfortable and active life as you’re waiting to reschedule your procedure.”
Physical therapists can also help patients prepare themselves for surgery, strengthening their bodies so that they recover faster and without complication. Known as prehabilitation, or “prehab,” the goal is to prepare the body for both the surgery itself and the rehabilitation effort that follows.
“Prehabilitation is based on the simple philosophy that the stronger and more balanced your body and muscles are before orthopedic surgery, the stronger and better off you’ll be after,” Briant said. “Multiple studies have shown this to be an effective strategy.”
For example, a study published in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery found that taking part in a physical therapy program before joint replacement surgery – a prehabilitation program – can reduce the need for post-operative care by nearly 30 percent.
“When a person has reached the point where they need orthopedic surgery, their bodies have oftentimes become accustomed to compensating for pain and certain impairments,” Briant said. “By seeing a physical therapist before surgery, we can address any bad movement habits, weaknesses or flexibility issues that can impede the rehabilitation process post-surgery.”
As surgeries are delayed, this can also lead to great patient anxiety. Working with a physical therapist during this period, however, can help reduce this anxiety while the PT better prepares the patient for the mental strain of surgery and rehabilitation.
“We pride ourselves on being educators, and we don’t take this role lightly when helping prepare someone for surgery,” Briant said. “We’ll educate them about what to expect immediately after surgery and coach them on exercises they’ll need to know during the rehab process – all of which can ease anxiety.”
If your orthopedic surgery has been delayed due to COVID-19, and you wish to stay active and pain-free leading up to surgery, contact the team at Kitsap County Physical Therapy and Sports Clinics to schedule an initial assessment.