The road to recovery from elbow surgery begins very quickly, almost immediately out of the operating room. Your arm will most likely be in a splint and the use of ice packs will help alleviate swelling and pain. Of course, pain relief medicine will also be administered.
Elbow Operation Recovery
Initially, a very gently rehabilitation course will be initiated, this is just to relax muscles around the elbow area.
When your surgeon is satisfied that you have made a good enough recovery you will be allowed to go home (usually a few days after surgery), but not before you have been seen by your physiotherapist and shown how to carry out the rehabilitation exercises necessary for further recovery and progress. All bandages and sutures will be removed 7-10 days after surgery however, a smaller sling or splint may be used for another few weeks if deemed necessary.
When you are at home you will follow guidelines given by your physiotherapist on types of physical treatments and exercises that will help with elbow operation recovery. These may include:
- Range of motion – restoring normal range of motion after elbow surgery is the objective and focus of your physical therapist for elbow surgery recovery. He will work with you on restoring full movement to the elbow and forearm which is paramount to getting full and normal arm movement back.
- Stretching – gentle stretching exercises help improve movement of the operated elbow and will gradually increase flexibility. Due to initial pain and rigidity this form of easy exercise is recommended for the first few days to one week.
- Strengthening exercises – about 2 – 3 weeks after elbow surgery you will be guided, with the help of your physical therapist, on what strengthening exercise you should be doing to help with your elbow operation recovery. These exercises will include the use of light weights and with the right use the strength to your elbow and hand will begin to increase and help regain normal use of your arm.
- Dynamic splint – depending on the severity of loss of motion, your physical therapist may opt to have you wear a dynamic splint. This is worn during the day, and the spring-loaded sprint helps improve flexion or extension of your elbow.
Working closely with your doctor and physical therapist can help you quickly and safely return to normal activity after elbow surgery.
Every person is different and your elbow surgery recovery will be personal to you and your physical state, however, the careful management of a recovery program will help you on your way back to post-operation life. While exercise may be painful at first, this will gradually go away (usually within 3 months) and movement will be noticeable improved. Having said that, many people need to keep up strength exercises for up to one year. Depending on the type of work you do, you should be able to go back to work in 3 – 12 weeks.
Sports activities can be resumed between 4-6 months, on your doctor’s approval.