Once surgery is behind you, you’ll immediately begin the process of rehabilitation. For many orthopedic patients, this is generally a multi-pronged approach designed to get you safely back to your normal activities as quickly as possible.

Physical Therapy vs. Occupational Therapy

Physical therapy (PT) emphasizes improving biomechanical move­ments to increase mobility, improve range of motion, and lessen pain.

Occupational therapy (OT) helps you resume your normal activities. Instead of focusing on how to increase motion in your knee after surgery, for example, which is what PT does, OT is about what you need or want your knee to do for you, and then finding ways to do it safely.

Activities of Daily Living

When you’re healthy, you don’t think about routine, day-to-day activities, such as getting dressed, preparing food or even going to the bathroom. However, when you’re recovering from joint surgery, these simple tasks can be overwhelming—maybe even impossible.

An occupational therapist will work with you so you can resume your activities and self-care as quickly as possible. Take getting dressed, for example. You may find it’s too difficult to put on your pants, shoes and socks, following knee or hip surgery. Physical therapy can help you regain the ability to bend over or to bend your knee. Occupational therapy, on the other hand, provides tools or techniques to compensate for movements you can’t do. With a dressing stick (which allows you to pull clothes on and off), a sock aid, and a long-handled shoehorn—and some how-to instructions—you can learn to dress yourself while you recover. The ability to perform such tasks independently will give you a sense of control and motivate you to keep up with your rehabilitation program.

Occupational therapy will also teach you how to move about safely during recovery. You might need to learn how to sit properly; get out of bed or a car when you can’t easily bend or twist; or use a cane until you’re strong enough to ambulate on your own. Your OT can also help you make safety changes at home, such as removing trip hazards and installing grab bars in the bathroom to prevent falls.

How occupational therapists can help you safely resume your normal activities:


Talk to Your Doctor

If you are having joint replacement or other orthopedic surgery, talk to your doctor about your post-surgery recovery plan and the occupational therapy that is right for you, so that you can restore your mobility as soon as possible.

Occupational Therapy After Orthopedic Surgery