Understanding Soft-Tissue Changes Post Orthopedic Surgeries and the Role of Bodywork

By Jo
Post-Surgery Empowerment

by Jo Rayl, LMT

With over twenty-five years of experience as a massage therapist, I've observed a common trend among clients who have undergone back surgeries: the inevitability of muscle tightening and soft tissue changes following back surgeries. It's logical to assume that when muscles and other soft tissues are disrupted during surgery, they may lose their natural mobility over time, leading to discomfort and pain. It's crucial to recognize that surgery often replaces one set of issues with another, highlighting the significant role of lifestyle choices and the necessity of consistent soft tissue maintenance in mitigating these effects.

Understanding and proactively managing the long-term soft tissue and muscle changes post-orthopedic surgeries through routine bodywork is essential for enhancing recovery, preventing chronic conditions, and ensuring sustained well-being. This comprehensive approach not only addresses the immediate repercussions of surgical interventions but, also mitigates the often-overlooked chronic muscle tension, scar tissue development, muscle weakness, and joint stiffness, thereby empowering individuals to achieve optimal post-surgical health and quality of life.

The following is structured into four primary sections:  (1) initially understanding long-term, post-surgical changes; (2) subsequently detailing the advantages of consistent bodywork for rehabilitation; followed by (3) guidance on integrating massage therapy into ongoing care strategies; and concluding with (4) the significance of adopting a comprehensive approach towards post-operative recovery.


The journey toward healing and adaptation following orthopedic surgeries introduces a spectrum of long-term changes, each impacting the body in unique ways. Chronic muscle tension arises as a direct consequence of biomechanical alterations, possibly due to the presence of surgical implants like rods or screws, leading to discomfort and restricted movement that can complicate daily activities. Alongside this, the natural healing process involves scar tissue development which, if not properly managed, can restrict motion and flexibility over time. This challenge is compounded by muscle weakness and atrophy, outcomes of prolonged immobilization and biomechanical shifts, which destabilize joints and diminish functional capabilities. Moreover, joint stiffness becomes a notable adversary, reducing mobility and causing discomfort, thus underscoring the complexity of post-surgical recovery.


Routine bodywork, and specifically massage therapy, presents itself as a vital ally in navigating these long-term changes. Its ability to enhance circulation promotes the swift resolution of post-surgical issues by optimizing tissue health through improved blood flow. Techniques like myofascial release and deep tissue massage are instrumental in breaking down scar tissue, thereby enhancing tissue alignment and flexibility. Furthermore, massage therapy aids in rebalancing muscles affected during the recovery phase, fostering improved function and stability. It is especially beneficial in expanding the range of motion, a critical element for those aiming to reclaim mobility and reduce stiffness. Above all, the role of massage therapy in alleviating chronic pain cannot be overstated, as it addresses the underlying soft tissue issues, promoting relaxation and a significant enhancement in the quality of life.


For those on the path to recovery from orthopedic surgeries, integrating routine bodywork into their care regimen offers a proactive strategy to address the nuanced challenges of post-surgical healing.  Collaborating with healthcare professionals and experienced bodywork practitioners ensures that the approach is tailored to address specific post-surgical needs.


Orthopedic surgeries signify the start of a recovery journey that extends beyond immediate healing, navigating through the intricate landscape of long-term soft tissue and muscle adaptations. Embracing routine bodywork as part of a comprehensive post-surgical strategy illuminates a holistic path to optimization of health. Engaging with healthcare providers and bodywork experts to formulate a personalized care plan empowers individuals towards achieving lasting comfort, mobility, and wellness, marking a proactive step in embracing long-term well-being.


Read the next installment, Leveraging Massage and Holistic Therapies for Long-Term Recovery and Lifestyle Management, HERE.


 About the Author:

Jo Rayl is a seasoned Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and Usui Reiki Master Teacher (RMT) with over 20 years of experience in holistic and therapeutic massage. A graduate of Irene's Myomassology Institute and trained by the Colorado Center for Healing Touch and the Upledger Institute, she offers an array of healing techniques including Swedish Massage, Carpal Tunnel Therapy, Myofascial Release, and Reflexology. Jo specializes in deep, targeted work for chronic pain management, particularly in areas such as the glutes, shoulders, and neck. Her integrative approach to therapy is informed by her belief in the importance of maintaining personal health as a gift to the world. Jo is available for appointments focusing on individualized care to promote wellness and alleviate discomfort. Book Now
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