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Rehabilitation of companion animals following orthopaedic surgery

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journal contribution
posted on 30.01.2020 by W.I. Baltzer

Physical therapy and rehabilitation following orthopaedic surgery in companion animals has become more common and new advancements in this field have been made in recent years. Surgery alone may not return the animal to its previous physical activity or work-related tasks, whether due to concurrent soft tissue trauma, arthrogenic muscle inhibition or osteoarthritis. Rehabilitation therapies following surgery can restore function as well as strength, coordination and balance. Many simple techniques such as cryotherapy and passive range of motion exercises have been shown to improve outcomes following musculoskeletal procedures and may help restore function as well as reduce pain and facilitate healing. Some techniques are more useful during different stages in order to achieve optimum tissue healing and recovery of function. During the first 72 hours, rehabilitation should focus on reduction of inflammation and pain, maintaining joint nutrition and range of motion, and stimulating vascularisation and healing; and may include cryotherapy, passive range of motion exercises, massage and therapeutic exercises. Following the initial recovery period, the goals of rehabilitation also include restoring strength, balance and normal gait patterns, as well as recovery of function. During this period the focus of therapy may shift toward therapeutic exercises, aquatic therapy and increasing activity in the animal. Therapeutic modalities such as neuromuscular electrical stimulation, photobiomodulation (laser therapy), therapeutic ultrasound and extracorporeal shock wave therapy have been reported to reduce pain and inflammation, enhance healing and reduce recovery time in the early and late stages following orthopaedic surgery.