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Why physical therapy matters

If you’ve hurt yourself, or had orthopaedic surgery, chances are good you’ve spent at least some time with a physical therapist.

While our surgeons are skilled at putting you back together, the process usually doesn’t stop there. After surgery, it’s often necessary for a patient to see a physical therapist who will work with them to get everything moving again.

“With most of the surgeries I do, there is a definite benefit to post-operative physical therapy,” explains GBO’s Dr. Thomas Fyda, a specialist in sports medicine. “PT more quickly and effectively restores strength, range of motion and normal function.”

Physical Therapy Pre-Surgery?

Sometimes physical therapy is recommended before surgery to assure better outcomes. Gina Breslow knew if she was going to have knee surgery, GBO’s Dr. Rick Mullins was definitely her first choice, as she had heard good things about him from former patients. At the first consult however, Dr. Mullins didn’t tell her what she wanted to hear.

“Dr. Mullins told me I needed to strengthen my leg through physical therapy before he would do the surgery,” she says. “I wanted surgery right away, so I got a second opinion from a doctor at Tahoe, who told me this injury was very complex, involving all the ligaments and a couple fractures, but he concurred with Dr. Mullins - the stronger I could get, the better the recovery.”

So, she signed up for intensive physical therapy. “Once I started doing the PT, I understood Dr. Mullins’ recommendation better,” Gina says. “I needed to stabilize the front and side ligaments of my knee before he could operate on the back.”  Read the rest of Gina’s story here.

What does a physical therapist do?

The American Physical Therapy Association shares: “Physical therapists are movement experts who treat people of all ages and abilities, helping them improve and maintain function and quality of life.”

They go on to say that physical therapists are healthcare professionals who use their combination of education, experience and research to create individualized treatment plans to help patients improve fitness and function, and reducing the use of opioids and other drugs.

In addition to orthopaedics, physical therapists can help patients improve mobility, recover from a stroke, improve balance or prevent falls, manage diabetes and vascular conditions, manage age-related issues, manage heart and lung disease and even post-partum care.

Most insurance companies will cover physical therapy; however the amount and type of coverage will vary. It’s best to check with your insurance company for specifics on what they cover, but also with whom. You don’t want to be surprised by a pile of bills at the end of your treatment because you went to the wrong place. 

A True Partnership

At Great Basin Orthopaedics (GBO), we highly value physical therapists as partners in the process of putting you back on the road to recovery.

As Dr. Fyda shares, “Having a therapist who knows the surgeon’s routines and rehab protocols is very important. And I always make it a point to contact the therapist to let them know what I did, so we can work together throughout rehab.”

Dr. Fyda says if a patient is unwilling to do post-operative physical therapy, that’s a reason to recommend against surgery. “An unwillingness to follow up surgery with physical therapy will compromise the outcome, so it’s not worth the risk,” he says.

Most of his patients are on board with PT though. “In general, when you explain the importance of it, people do what they need to do to get back to normal faster,” he says.

The bottom line? Listen to your healthcare professionals. If your surgeon recommends physical therapy, go to physical therapy. And then do what your physical therapist advises. That’s the fastest way to getting you back to your regularly scheduled life!