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What does "No Restrictions" after surgery actually mean?

Hey OTB Blog Readers!

Today I thought I'd discuss something that I have been explaining A LOT in the clinic lately:

You've just returned from your follow-up visit from your orthopedist and they have "lifted all restrictions" or "cleared you to return to the gym/sport".


If you've been here, you know that at this visit you're feeling a flood of emotions since this is the day you've been working so hard for! BUT it may be confusing since you know that you still are working a lot at PT to get your full range of motion back and you're not even CLOSE to being as strong as you hoped you would be.

How can the ortho and PT be on such different pages?

Answer: WE'RE NOT, this is just not explained properly, especially for return to sport patients.

Long Answer: The orthopedist is LIFTING RESTRICTIONS, not telling you to perform at 100% of your pre-injury or pre-surgical levels. This includes doing more advanced movements in the gym, returning to sport, lifting the same amount of weight you were before, etc. All this enables you to do is BEGIN introducing these activities again. Where you are right now in this stage of recovery means that the injured body part has healed enough to reintroduce more load, stress and activity.

LONGER ANSWER: What this means, is that you will still be progressing at a pace that is appropriate FOR YOU under the specific supervision and guide of your Physical Therapist. They know the specific demands of your activity down to how much range of motion, strength and stability is needed at each joint for you to perform this safely and successfully! They will break down each movement you need to be able to perform and create an individualized program for you to successfully return to all that is required of your activity or sport.

For example: If you are a dancer who injured your knee and you have been cleared to return to dance from the ortho, but have yet to practice leaps, turns, and single leg plyometrics in the clinic, you should not yet perform these at dance until your Physical Therapist clears you to do so.

If you're still unsure of what is safe to do outside of the clinic, or need guidance on proper progression and loading after an injury, don't hesitate to reach out!!

We hope this post is enlightening and helps you navigate this exciting time in your recovery!

~ Dr. Hanna

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