Recovering after orthopedic surgery

Rehabilitation begins almost immediately after orthopedic surgery. This includes rehab for partial or total joint replacement and orthopedic hip, knee, shoulder, spine, wrist, hand, foot or ankle surgery.

Before you're discharged from your HonorHealth surgical facility, your care team will begin rehabilitation to get you up and moving around as quickly and safely as possible.

This usually happens two to four hours after surgery, depending on the patient and type of surgery.

HonorHealth - Recovering after orthopedic surgery


Your orthopedic surgeon will work with HonorHealth nurses, physical therapists and other professionals to begin implementing a recovery plan tailored just for you. After you've been discharged and return home, you'll either follow an at-home rehabilitation program on your own, have in-home visits from a physical therapist, or do physical therapy at another location. In some cases, rehab may be done at your physician's office or at a separate rehabilitation facility. Regardless of location, the goals of rehabilitation include:

  • Increased range of motion.
  • Improved function.
  • Greater strength and mobility.

Recovering from any orthopedic surgery takes time, patience and realistic expectations. Talk to your orthopedic surgeon to make sure you understand the short and long-term limitations of your specific operation. Your doctor will educate you on the typical recovery times, rehabilitation requirements and expectations for your individual condition and treatment.

Physical and occupational therapy

Most orthopedic surgical procedures require some form of physical and/or occupational therapy. Your doctor may prescribe an informal rehabilitation plan that centers on having you walk daily and move the affected area as part of an otherwise normal routine.

If your condition warrants additional support, you may be signed up for in-home therapy with a physical and/or occupational therapist who will visit you at home for one-on-one therapy sessions. Another option is outpatient physical therapy and/or occupational therapy.

If you're recovering from hand or wrist surgery, you may benefit from hand therapy at HonorHealth. Therapists use state-of-the-art technology to help improve function and your ability to perform daily tasks.

The goals of physical and/or occupational therapy may include:

  • Helping you learn to stand and walk again following joint replacement or another type of orthopedic procedure such as hip, knee, foot or ankle, or back surgery.
  • Training your muscles and nerves to work together again.
  • Restoring your strength, balance, mobility and overall range of motion.
  • Learning to use assistive devices such as canes and walkers.
  • Teaching you to adapt the equipment and other items you use on a regular basis.
  • Helping you to perform daily living tasks, such as dressing, bathing, eating, and getting out of bed.


Every effort is made for your comfort following surgery. It's normal to feel some lingering pain or discomfort after surgery. Because each person's pain tolerance is different than the next, pain may last a few days or even several weeks. Take your pain medication as prescribed and follow all discharge instructions as directed by your physician.

If you have questions about your surgery, the treatment plan or the level of pain you're experiencing, please contact your orthopedic surgeon or physician directly.

Contact your orthopedic surgeon immediately if your wound opens, if you see redness, or if the incision site feels warm — these may be signs of infection.