Within several days of your surgery, you will begin a thorough and on-going orthopedic rehabilitation program designed to improve the blood supply to the limb and promote healing.
If you are having a leg lengthened or corrected, you will begin physical therapy in the hospital until you can walk. Your physical therapist may teach you exercises to help you develop sitting and standing balance, stability and coordination to prepare you for mobilization and ambulation.
If you are having an arm lengthened or corrected, you will begin physical therapy in the hospital until you are able to use the arm for a range of daily care.
Learning to walk with balance and stability or using your arm with coordination after the external fixator is attached usually takes three to four days.
Your therapist will design a home-exercise program encouraging you to maintain the limb's range of motion and strength. Their objective is to help you become as independent as possible to cope with the external fixator and promote healing.
Your exercise program is your surgeon's prescription. The exercise program designed for you will depend on the type of correction or lengthening treatment you are undergoing.
Aerobic activities increase blood flow and strengthen bones. It burns calories, increases resistance to disease and decreases tension. It also releases endorphins – the body's own pain-control system.
To avoid complications, your exercise program should be followed with commitment and discipline. You may be able to walk, ride a stationary bike and swim in a chlorinated, clean pool (after your sutures are out).
You must bear weight on the limb being treated with the external fixator, after you've been released by your surgeon to do so, or you may not heal properly. You must exercise your affected extremity to increase blood flow and grow healthy bone tissue. For a leg fitted with the TAYLOR SPATIAL FRAME device, that means walking. For an arm fitted with an external fixator, that means using small weights. Putting weight on the treated extremity promotes healing.
Whatever the method, exercise is critical for a speedy recovery. Check with your surgeon and your physical therapist for specific instructions.
Learn more about pediatric orthopedic physical therapy and rehabilitation services at Nicklaus Children's Hospital.
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