According to the Ceda Orthopedic Group, orthopedic doctors specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system (tendons, muscles, ligaments, bones, joints). While they usually try to treat these injuries or disorders using nonsurgical treatments first, they sometimes need to perform orthopedic surgery to treat some severe injuries or chronic conditions.
The healing time depends on how fast it will take for you to recover or see the actual benefits of orthopedic surgery. Factors may include your overall health, the condition treated, and the type of surgery performed. It may take a few weeks for some patients to recover or several months for others. Most likely, they will be discharged to their homes.
Recovery Time for Different Conditions
After orthopedic surgery, your surgeon may provide a set of specific guidelines in most cases, which may include the following:
- Medication to lower the risk of infection and help with pain
- Time off work
- Assistive tools
- Wound care
- A rehabilitation program
- Physical therapy (electrical stimulation and therapeutic ultrasound, massage therapy, heat and cold treatments, therapeutic exercises, personalized exercise program).
Injuries to knee ligaments usually occur to professional athletes and are common in sports like running. The most frequent is tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which attaches the femur or thigh bone to the shin bone. If you suffer from a partial or complete tear, you may need repair or construction with a ligament graft.
The average recovery time for knee ligament reconstruction is six to eight months. The recovery process starts with biking within three to six weeks, treadmill running for ten to twelve weeks following the surgery and outdoor jogging for three to four months.
With fractures, the recovery time may differ based on the location and severity of the bone fracture. A broken finger will take less time to recover than a compound fracture of the ankle, arm, or femur. However, the average time for fractures to heal is six to eight weeks.
If you have a more severe fracture, you may need to undergo surgery so the surgeon can insert screws or metal plates. For instance, it takes about six weeks for the upper limbs to heal, while it may take up to 12 weeks for the lower limbs.
Spinal surgeries are among the most challenging procedures for a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon. However, they can perform surgeries related to the lumbar or cervical spine. A neurosurgeon will perform surgeries for conditions due to nerve pain, while an orthopedic specialist will perform surgeries requiring the realignment or correction of the spinal column.
For scoliosis, a surgeon may need to attach rods to support the spinal column, and the recovery may involve months of physical therapy. Due to their physical condition or advanced age, a full recovery may not be possible for the patient.
On the other hand, a spinal fusion (involving the permanent connection of two vertebrae) may require a two or three-day hospital stay. To attach the two vertebrae, a surgeon will use rods, screws, or bone graft and recommend you wear a brace at home. It may take twelve to eighteen weeks for the affected bones to solidify in the spine, depending on the complexity of the surgery. But with vigorous exercise, the recovery time could be six months.
Regardless of your injuries or condition, your orthopedic surgeon will work closely with you or your caregivers to ensure the best outcome of your surgery. It is vital to understand that while the primary goal is to restore the function and help you move without pain, you may have some limitations after the orthopedic procedure.