Is Your Weight Impeding Your Recovery Efforts?

February 27, 2018 1:33 am / Category: Physical Therapy


Carrying excessive weight can also affect your ability to recover post-op or injury. DPT Rodney Alford shares his tips to take-charge of your weight and set yourself up for success in physical therapy.


Starting off the new year, many people have set resolutions that they would like to accomplish, whether it be speaking to loved ones more, being kinder to others, or living a healthier lifestyle. I am here to talk about the latter, specifically about its effect on your success in physical therapy.

Obesity is now considered a pandemic disease, and it is only trending upward and affecting our children younger and younger. Not only can being overweight cause you to be lethargic or hinder your ability to complete tasks, it can also lead to a number of physical ailments, such as joint pain, arthritis, decreased mobility, decreased cardiovascular function, and cause muscle imbalances. Carrying excessive weight can also affect your ability to recover post-op or injury.

How Excessive Body Weight Affects a Recovering Body

After an injury or surgery, it is very easy to get complacent and neglect your health, especially if you cannot exercise normally or cook for yourself. Still, the fact remains that recent studies have shown being overweight has negative ramifications on recovering bodies.

For instance, having excessive weight around the abdomen can change your center of gravity and alter your natural biokinematics, which is your body’s natural way of moving and getting around. Carrying excessive weight around the area of the body that is injured creates added stress on your recovering tissues and joints. Having excessive body weight in general means you are overworking globally strong muscles (e.g. large back extensors, quadriceps, hamstrings, pectorals, deltoids, upper trapezius) and overshadowing the supportive and stabilizing muscles (e.g. glutes, small back extensors, rotator cuff) needed for proper posture and alignment. This type of muscle imbalance can lead to overuse of large muscles and degradation of smaller muscles, which in turn can lead to arthritic conditions and long-term disability post rehab.

Ways to Manage Your Weight Before and After Injury

If you are currently in physical therapy or have an upcoming surgery scheduled and you know you are carrying excessive weight, now is the time to start being proactive with your health. The first step to making a change is understanding and accepting that it is truly time for one—and how it could affect your rehab if you do not.

Here are some easy ways to take-charge of your weight and set yourself up for success:

  • Start good habits before surgery. If you have a surgery scheduled, start an exercise and nutrition program beforehand to help reduce your weight so that you can start the rehab process at a healthier size.
  • Talk to a health and nutrition specialist along with your physical therapist to find fun ways to maintain your weight or reduce body fat after surgery.
  • Find safe ways to shed some calories. During recovery, find low-impact activities like walking the dog, taking a restorative Pilates class, or even attending a free nutrition class in your community.

These are great, simple ways to start making healthier choices before and during your rehab process to set yourself up for a successful recovery. The recovery process is hard enough; the last thing you need is your weight getting in the way and causing unwanted setbacks. Trust me, your joints will thank you.

Rodney Alford Rausch PTRodney Alford, DPT is a physical therapist at Rausch Physical Therapy & Sports Performance in Laguna Niguel, Calif. He received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree at Northern Illinois University in 2017 and started his career at Rausch PT.

Learn more about Rodney and our other physical therapists »