Considering Skipping Out On Rehab? Think Again!

You’re recovering from an injury or just had surgery. As you pack your bags to go home, your doctor prescribes six to eight weeks of rehabilitation therapy. “Ugh, what’s the point?” you ask. Well, we’ll tell you. Before you assume that rehabilitation is a painful waste of time, it’s important to understand its purpose and the realities of what to expect.

Here are the most common types of rehabilitation and what you can expect from each, so you can stop dragging your feet—and start feeling better.

PHYSICAL THERAPY
WHO NEEDS IT: Individuals with brain, spinal cord or musculoskeletal injuries; those with chronic and progressive diseases and disorders; and those recovering from major orthopedic surgeries like knee or hip replacements.

HOW IT HELPS: It helps patients gain or regain strength, balance, stability and range of motion. Your physical therapist will push you enough to help you keep making progress and moving toward your goals without injuring yourself. Particularly after orthopedic surgeries, it’s critical that the patient get moving the right way to avoid lifelong limitations and future injuries.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Physical therapy may include physical activity, body-mechanics training or hands on treatment. Rehab isn’t torture. It can be challenging and sometimes uncomfortable, but the discomfort will be manageable. Believe it or not, most patients come to enjoy—and even look forward to—their sessions. With the right attitude, it really can be as much fun as it is work.Your therapy also may include enjoyable activities like a massage or a warm paraffin wax or heating pad application to ease muscle tension and improve flexibility.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY
WHO NEEDS IT: Individuals faced with physical, mental, emotional or developmental challenges that affect their ability to complete everyday tasks.

HOW IT HELPS: Patients work around their challenges to regain their independence and become a productive member of their homes and communities. Occupational therapy is usually concurrent with and complementary to physical therapy. It’s about helping the patient return home and reenter society as smoothly as possible with their new limitations and challenges.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Occupational therapists may help patients make changes to their home to make getting around easier, or teach them how to use adaptive equipment, such as wheelchairs or modified tools and utensils. They can also offer guidance to family members on how and when to help. The focus is on helping patients adjust to their “new normal,” so to speak—finding new ways to achieve normal tasks. Sessions usually take place at home, work or in the community so patients can get hands-on practice navigating their environment. The goal is to get them comfortable living independently and feeling capable doing day-to-day activities on their own after the therapy has ended.

SPEECH THERAPY
WHO NEEDS IT: Individuals suffering from speech, language and swallowing difficulties caused by a surgery; injury; disease; defect, such as cleft palate; developmental delay; or a traumatic event, such as stroke.

HOW IT HELPS: Patients strengthen the muscles of the mouth, throat and vocal cords to communicate more effectively.
 
WHAT TO EXPECT: A speech therapist will first identify your unique needs, strengths and weaknesses using a series of questions and tests. Speech therapy can be challenging, intense work, but it can also be a lot of fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and be prepared to get a little silly. Speech therapy often involves a lot of throat, mouth and tongue exercises that can evoke a smile from even the most serious person. It’s not uncommon for patients to sing or even laugh during speech therapy, and that’s a good thing. 

CARDIAC REHABILITATION
WHO NEEDS IT: Individuals who have heart disease, usually recovering from a heart attack or surgery.

HOW IT HELPS: Patients stabilize and recover from a cardiac event or surgery and, through diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and counseling, learn to slow or reverse the progression of
heart disease.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Cardiac rehab is a comprehensive type of rehab that may include a combination of one-on-one nutrition counseling, smoking-cessation classes and physical activity. It’s an all-angles approach that really works. Studies show that patients recovering from heart attacks who attend cardiac rehabilitation have lower mortality rates than patients who didn’t go through rehabilitation.

Prepare for Your First P.T. Appointment
Be prepared for your first physical therapy appointment. Visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/sportsrehab, then click “Gwinnett SportsRehab FAQs.” You can also click “Gwinnett SportsRehab Team” to learn about the therapists who will treat you. GMC offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation in Lawrenceville and Duluth.

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