While patience is the hardest issue to face while in recovery, the following guidelines can help guide you as a patient to the fastest and most efficient way to reach full rehabilitation quickly and easily.
• Be consistent and compliant with your home exercise program prescribed to by your therapist. This is the best way to allow your mobility and strength to improve quicker and more efficiently. It is also important not to add in new exercises or workouts before approval from your treating therapist or doctor. If you feel confused or unsure if you are performing a certain exercise correctly, feel free to review this during your PT sessions. Any exercises causing increased pain can also be modified by your therapist.
• Be compliant with equipment. Braces, boots, and slings are prescribed for a reason. It is important to adhere to them for the expected time frame dependent upon your specific injury or surgery (usually around 6 weeks). Your doctor and/or physical therapist will let you know when they can be removed throughout the day and what to do while sleeping.
• Make sleep a priority (as well as naps). Your body needs rest to allow tissue recovery and healing. It is normal to feel overall decreased endurance after an injury, especially surgery. To manage pain while sleeping, remember to take your prescribed medication from your doctor and apply ice ten minutes before bed. Try a variety of different sleep positions with pillows for comfort. Most patients with a shoulder issue feel more comfortable sleeping in a recliner at first. Check with your therapist if certain positioning is safe to do to avoid joint contractures post operatively.
• Try not to compare yourself to others. Even when someone you know may have had a similar type of surgery, everyone recovers differently. Remember to not push yourself too fast too soon which can slow down the healing process and create more swelling.
• Always ask your doctor or therapist as to when you can return to previous activities or specific tasks. This can prevent further risk to your previous injury or surgical procedure. Patient education is part of our job, so do not hesitate to ask questions.
• A body in motion stays in motion. It is important to keep active, but not to overdo it. A balance of short walks and changing position every hour can help to avoid stiffness. When returning to an activity for the first-time following surgery or an injury, try to limit it to 20-to-30-minute intervals. Sometimes soreness may not creep in until the second day. It is best to progress slowly to longer time frames week by week as tolerated.
• Know your limits. The saying “no pain no gain” is not necessarily true when it comes to physical therapy. Fatigue is okay when felt in the muscles, but sharp pain is not. When you start to notice any increase of pain remember to stop and take a break instead of pushing through it. Also make sure to let your therapist know of any increased pain caused when exercising.
• Let the incision just be. Allow steri-strips to stay in place for as long as possible to prevent infection and allow the incision to heal. Refrain from applying anything (such as ointments or lotions) unless recommended or approved by your doctor. Avoid swimming and hot tubs until cleared by your doctor.
• Be consistent with adhering to your appointments. A week break can make a difference in progress. Remember to continue with your home exercise program on days missed due to unforeseen circumstances.
• Be mindful of posture. This always helps to engage the right muscle groups and prevent the development of poor walking habits. This is beneficial for any type of surgery or injury, including the shoulder to help ease discomfort.
• Remember to eat and stay hydrated prior to your PT visit. This can prevent light headedness and dizziness, as well as provide your body with sufficient energy.
• Lastly, keep your doctor and therapist updated on any upcoming medical changes such as hospitalizations, medications, medical procedures, or changes in health status that may affect your treatment.