Surgery is a boon of our age – modern antibiotics, anesthesia, and pain medications have all made surgery as safe and painless as possible. However, surgery can still be a terrible strain on the body, interfering with basic functions like walking and running, and even daily activities like going to the bathroom or guarding against the mailman. Whether surgery is planned or emergent, rehabilitation medicine can often be used to speed recovery, and even to improve the physical health of the patient relative to his or her pre-surgical standard.
Rehabilitation medicine is often used to help maintain and decrease weight, increase movement and strength, and even treat pain to improve mobility. A careful rehabilitation assessment is done just prior to or after surgery. Your pet’s joint movements, muscle mass, gait (way of walking), strength, and reflexes are all assessed. Once modalities are chosen to strengthen the surgical site and build-up the supporting muscle groups. Targeted areas might receive Laser Therapy for decreasing inflammation, ultrasound for warming, neuromuscular electrical stimulation for muscle strengthening, and balance and proprioceptive exercises to help with agility, strength, and overall movement. In some situations, underwater treadmill is used, as is swimming, and various types of movement games.
Rehabilitation medicine can make a really big impression on your pet! Whether starting prior to surgery to ensure the pet will tolerate the procedure as well as possible, or after surgery to speed and bolster recuperation, rehabilitation medicine can be used to decrease inflammation and pain. In the immediate post-surgical period, laser therapy, cold packs, and gentle range of motion exercises all work together to ensure that the patient is as comfortable as possible while re-engaging the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the area. After a few days, patients can be motivated to slightly more vigorous movement, encouraging a passive range of motion exercises, and also comforted with cold packs, laser therapy, and ultrasound warming of the area if the inflammation has resolved. Slowly increasing weight-bearing through carefully-planned exercises, aggressive pain management, rest, weight management, warmth and cooling of the area, and continuous reassessment are all components of the program to lead the patient into a state of full health.
While all healing takes time, a solid rehabilitation program can decrease the time a surgical patient will take to make his or her recovery, and, further, can ensure that recovery is as complete as possible. After all, there’s no reason why a mailman should go unharried on your block!