Post-Operative Care for Running Injuries: Physiotherapy for Optimal Recovery 


Recovering from surgery for a running injury requires a well-structured post-operative care plan, where physiotherapy plays a pivotal role. Whether the surgery was for a torn ligament, tendon repair or fracture fixation, effective rehabilitation is crucial for restoring function, preventing complications and ensuring a safe return to running. 

The Role of Physiotherapy 

  1. Early Rehabilitation

Post-surgical recovery often begins with early-stage physiotherapy, focusing on minimising pain and swelling. Techniques such as manual therapy, cryotherapy and controlled movements are employed to enhance circulation and reduce inflammation. Early physiotherapy also emphasises restoring range of motion through gentle, passive exercises, which is vital for preventing joint stiffness and promoting tissue healing. 

  1. Gradual Strengthening

As the initial healing phase concludes, physiotherapy shifts towards strengthening the muscles around the injured area. This phase involves a progressive exercise regimen tailored to the specific needs of the patient. For instance, after an Achilles tendon repair, exercises might include calf raises and resistance band exercises to rebuild calf strength and tendon elasticity. Strengthening exercises are carefully monitored and adjusted to avoid overstressing the healing tissue. 

  1. Functional Training

Restoring functional movement patterns is essential for a successful return to running. Physiotherapists employ functional training that mimics real-life activities and running mechanics. This may involve balance exercises, proprioception training and sport-specific drills to improve coordination and reduce the risk of re-injury. For example, following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery, incorporating single-leg squats and agility drills can help rebuild knee stability and confidence. 

Careful Transition to Physical Activity 

  1. Gradual Progression

A key principle in post-operative care is the gradual progression to physical activity. Physiotherapists design a staged return-to-running program that starts with low-impact activities like walking or cycling. The intensity and duration are incrementally increased, ensuring that the body adapts without undue stress on the healing structures. 

  1. Regular Monitoring and Adjustments

Experienced sports physiotherapists play a crucial role in regularly monitoring the patient’s progress. They assess factors such as pain levels, swelling, strength and functional capabilities, making necessary adjustments to the rehabilitation plan. This individualised approach helps in identifying any potential issues early and modifying the program to address specific needs. 

  1. Education and Preventive Strategies

Education is integral to post-operative care. Physiotherapists provide guidance on proper running techniques, footwear choices and injury prevention strategies. This education empowers patients to make informed decisions, reducing the likelihood of re-injury and promoting long-term health. 

Ensuring a Safe and Smooth Transition 

Post-operative care for running injuries demands a comprehensive and personalised physiotherapy approach. Early rehabilitation, gradual strengthening, functional training and a carefully monitored return to activity are essential for optimal recovery. By working closely with experienced sports physiotherapists, runners can ensure a smooth transition back to their sport, minimise the risk of re-injury and achieve long-term success in their running endeavours.