HealthWatch: Physical Therapy

WCBS-TV—September 21, 2010

Itís not just baby boomers like CBS 2HDís Max Gomez whoíve had neck, back and rotator cuff surgery. Younger, active  people also sustain all sorts of orthopedic injuries. And if you need surgery, chances are that youíll be able to get back to whatever you want to do, but to get there, youíre going to have to put a lot of work into it.

The often forgotten part of getting better is physical therapy.

She lifts, she pedals, she stretches, she even leg presses, all hard work but some things Mary Yanolatos knows she has to do.

ďTo get back to sports, I want to be able to hike again, to play volleyball again, definitely want to ski again,Ē she said.

It was skiing that got Mary into trouble in the first place. A seemingly minor spill led to a torn ACL in her left knee. Thatís the anterior cruciate ligament Ė a key stabilizer of the knee.

Turns out sports medicine doctors are seeing lots of injuries like Maryís and more.

ďMeniscal injuries, patellar dislocations, are all fairly common. In the shoulder we see mostly dislocations and labral injuries in younger patients and in older patients by far the most common is rotator cuff injuries,Ē said Dr. Robert Marx, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, at Hospital for Special Surgery.

Maryís torn ACL needed reconstructive surgery. Itís a very successful procedure, but one that requires a lot of work after the operation.

ďNow you have to rehabilitate all the things that need to be addressed after surgery, strength, range of motion, flexibility,Ē said Greg Fives, physical therapist.

Physical therapy, whether its for a knee, shoulder, ankle, almost any orthopedic injury, is crucial for a full and speedy recovery.

Thatís what Mary is working so hard at. She knows that a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that surgery is the end of the injury. Itís actually just the beginning of getting better.

ďItís crucial that a patient commit themselves to physical therapy and work very hard because if they donít, they can have an unsatisfactory result after the surgery,Ē Marx said.

Both hard work and patience are important for recovery because it can take four to six months to recover full function after surgery.

ďItís a commitment but itís something that I enjoy doing. So, my new hobby, physical therapy,Ē Mary said.

Physical therapy rehab is hard work and can be painful. Itís amazing how muscles lose strength after surgery and joints get stiff without movement.

Thatís also why, if you can, physical therapy even before surgery is a good idea to build strength and flexibility that will make rehab and recovery easier after surgery.

So how often do you need to be doing physical therapy after surgery? Ideally two or three times a week, but then you need to be doing special exercises every day.

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