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Optimizing Your Post-Operative Recovery

By: Dan Burow DPT, OCS

Everyone wants to get back to their old selves as soon as possible after surgery. In fact, the main reason why people have surgery in the first place is so they can get back to where they were before things started going downhill.

The problem with that is twofold: very often people aren’t connected to all the resources they need to achieve the fullest possible recovery, and some patients don’t follow their post-operative instructions to the letter.

Here’s why both of these are so important to your total recovery after surgery.

Everything Matters

Surgery is a stressful procedure for your body. Skin is opened up, muscles are separated, ligaments are cut and sewn and repaired, or foreign bodies made of plastic or metal are attached to bones.

People often think that they can have a joint replaced one week and can pick right up where they left off the next. It isn’t quite that simple.

While joint-replacement patients are often up and walking shortly after surgery, getting back to a level that surpasses pre-surgery functionality is a process – and in that process, everything matters.

Exercises, physical therapy, and nutrition all have to work together to maximize a patient’s overall health, so that repaired joint is functioning within the healthiest possible body.


Have you heard the adage, “motion is lotion”? Exercises provide that “lotion” your body needs – to move more freely, to have a wider range of motion, and to perform everyday tasks with less stress, strain, and pain.

Regular exercise also has the benefit of releasing feel-good endorphins in your body – so not only do you feel better when you exercise, you feel better when you exercise…if that makes any sense.

Movement is one of the keys to a healthy, happy life – so do as much as you’re allowed by your rehabilitation regimen. Don’t skimp.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a guided regimen that draws on many years of experience, training and research to improve movement and hasten recovery.

Physical therapists do what they do, and recommend what they recommend, for some very good reasons, guided by science and their thorough knowledge of your specific case.

Failure to follow their instructions to the letter is like failing to take a prescribed medicine. Sure, you can, but why would you? It’s what the doctor ordered.


Probably the most overlooked key to maximizing your recovery is nutrition. Not only can eating well help you lose weight — and less weight on your joints is never a bad thing – but proper nutrition has actually been shown to reduce inflammation.

People often think of inflammation as pain, but it goes beyond that. Inflammation on the cellular level is a contributor to chronic conditions like heart disease and arthritis, and may even be a factor in increasing the severity of viral infections like COVID-19.

By following a diet that’s high in inflammation-fighters, you can reduce the amount of pain associated with your recovery … and that’ll make you feel better all by itself!

Kali Clark is a great resource for obtaining more information about nutrition before or after surgery as she owns and operates Sweet Spot Nutrition in Plover.

She has been working in health and wellness for more than a decade. Her goal is to use nutrition to enhance healing and promote wellness for SPO patients before and after surgery.

By making small, manageable changes you can have better health and faster healing through nutrition.

Follow The Instructions

Exercises, physical therapy, and good nutrition are key components of a successful post-operative recovery, but the most important component is you.

Ultimately, you decide how quickly and completely you recover, by how diligently you do your exercises, attend physical-therapy sessions, and watch what you eat.

In addition, your attitude and motivation as you approach all these tasks will help determine your success level.

There will be highs and lows in your recovery process, which is why it’s important to have resources at your disposal to help you through the low spots and celebrate the highs.

Stevens Point Orthopedics has a wide range of support resources to help you maximize your recovery. They include:

  • Local physicians with roots in the community, and a personal stake in everyone’s recovery and
  • Personalized joint-replacement counseling and assistance through the exclusive Joint Journey program.

We are here for you as you go through your post-surgery recovery program, to help you make sure you hit those milestones and recover faster and stronger.

However, we’re just part of the equation. You need to be here for you as well – to stay positive, to focus on your goals, but perhaps most importantly, to follow the instructions of your doctors, physical therapy experts, and all the other experts vested in your recovery.

Do it for you – and let us help.

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