Rehabilitation After Arthroscopic Surgery

If you have a bone or joint problem, your orthopaedist may recommend surgery. Arthroscopic surgery may be an option. What can you expect after arthroscopic surgery? Compared with an open surgical procedure, you can anticipate a shorter rehabilitation time, with earlier return to your daily activities and sports.

Your scars will be small (less than one-inch long) and less noticeable than the scars from the longer incisions typical of open surgeries. Usually, you will not have stitches, and you may be able to shower within a couple of days to a week.

After arthroscopic surgery for a problem in the the shoulder, elbow, or wrist, you normally do not wear a sling as long as you would after open surgery. In addition, you can start using your arm sooner for activities, such as eating, bathing, and grooming. After arthroscopic surgery for the hip, knee, or ankle, you usually are allowed to bear weight earlier than after open surgery, and you spend less time on crutches. In addition, you should be walking normally soon after surgery.

In most cases, you can start rangeof-motion exercises right after surgery. Before you leave the hospital, a physical or occupational therapist shows you how to move your injured joint and the joints above and below it. Your flexibility should come back more quickly with this procedure than with an open procedure. Gentle strengthening exercises are usually safe to begin in the first week after surgery. Sometimes, you begin these exercises before you leave the hospital or on your first visit to the therapist. You gradually increase the intensity of the strengthening exercises, progressing to functional and sport activities as you can tolerate them.

Arthroscopic surgery has benefits, but keep your expectations realistic. Every operation, whether open or arthroscopic, is performed to correct an anatomic or mechanical problem. Some cases are more complicated than others, and return to function takes time, even after arthroscopic surgery. For a good result after any operation, you need to follow the instructions of your doctor and therapist.

Author: Teri L. LaSalle, M.S., P.T., ATC | Columbus, Georgia

Reprinted with permission from the Hughston Health Alert, Volume 13, Number 2, Spring 2001

Last edited on October 18, 2021