Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation

In this Article

What is Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation?

Musculoskeletal (MUH-skew-low-SKEL-ih-tuhl) rehabilitation is a set of treatments that can help you recover strength and the ability to move your muscles and joints. This kind of treatment may be used after an accident, injury, or disease that makes you less able to move your muscles or joints.

Your musculoskeletal system is the muscles and bones in your body. These are the parts of your body that help you move, lift, and work with tools. Many injuries and diseases can damage your bones and muscles or make it harder to use them. Some of these include:

  • Tendonitis (ten-DUHN-i-TIS) in your shoulder, arm, or ankle
  • Muscle tears
  • Ligament (LIH-guh-mint) sprains or tears
  • Inflammation within the bursae and joints
  • Rheumatoid (ROO-muh-TOYD) arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tumors
  • Ganglion cysts
  • Hernias
  • Foreign bodies like splinters or glass in your muscles

If you have a condition that affects your musculoskeletal system, your healthcare provider may recommend several different kinds of treatment, including rehabilitation.


Rehabilitation is a treatment that can help you recover from a serious injury, illness, or surgery. After these events, you may need time to regain your strength, re-learn skills, or find new ways of doing the things that you were able to do before. Musculoskeletal rehabilitation is a form of orthopedic (or-thuh-PEE-dik) rehab that can help you with your strength, fitness, and ability to move.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a kind of treatment that helps people be independent in all parts of their life. Occupational therapy is used for people recovering from injuries or illness, as well as children and adults with disabilities, and older people who are having age-related concerns.

What are the Risks and/or Side Effects?

Musculoskeletal rehabilitation is a safe process, and your rehabilitation therapist can take steps to make sure that you are not injured during rehab. However, there are some risks:

  • You might not recover all of the functions that you had before your illness, disease, or surgery.
  • The rehabilitation might make you sore, or can cause pain as you gain strength in your muscles and bones or learn to move in new ways.
  • If you strain too much during the rehab exercises, you could injure the part of your body that you are working on. Your physical therapist will watch you do the rehab to make sure that you are stretching and working safely.

What are the Benefits?

There are many benefits of musculoskeletal rehabilitation:

  • You can regain function in bones, joints, and muscles that have been damaged due to the injury, illness, or surgery.
  • Occupational therapy can give you back the skills you need to do your job or other life tasks independently.
  • Rehabilitation can help you build strength and flexibility, helping with the symptoms of chronic pain.
  • Musculoskeletal rehabilitation can address problems with your knee, elbow, hip, shoulder, back, or neck.

How Do I Prepare?

Usually, you don’t need to prepare for musculoskeletal rehabilitation. Once you are seeing a rehab specialist, however, they may have you do certain tasks on your own. These can include:

  • Stretches or exercises that rebuild strength in your joints, bones, and muscles
  • Keeping a log of the tasks that you try to complete and any challenges you have
  • If you are in occupational therapy, working with your job to list your duties and find which parts of your job you need help with

How is it Done or Administered?

Musculoskeletal rehabilitation can begin while you are in the hospital with an illness or injury. If your healthcare provider thinks you will need rehab after a surgery, the rehab process may begin before the surgery. After you leave the hospital, you may continue at a special inpatient rehabilitation center, especially if you have severe injuries. As you recover, you will be able to go home and schedule visits with your rehabilitation therapist.

Orthopedic rehab includes many techniques for restoring your muscle and bone function. These can include stretches, resistance exercise, and other approaches that your doctor recommends.

If you see an occupational therapist, they will:

  • Talk to you about your goals for therapy
  • Make a plan just for you that is focused on helping you perform daily activities and reach your goals
  • Keep track of your progress to make sure you are meeting your goals, and change the plan if you are not

One of the main goals of occupational therapy is to help you return to work or other life activities. If you are in occupational therapy to regain the skills you need to do your job, your occupational therapist can:

  • Observe you while you are on the job to see if you are able to complete your tasks
  • Recommend changes to job tasks that will let you finish them safely
  • List the main tasks of your job
  • Help you follow your company’s return-to-work program
  • Watch your progress and recommend when your work tasks can be upgraded

When Will I Know the Results?

Musculoskeletal rehabilitation is a long-term treatment. You will know the results over time as your ability to use your muscles, joints, and bones improves. Your healthcare provider may also order tests or evaluations to check your progress throughout the process.

What are Follow-up Requirements and Options?

Your healthcare provider and your rehabilitation specialist will work with you to decide on follow-up options. If your injury is serious, your healthcare provider may refer you to an inpatient facility where you can get more help with your recovery. Once you are doing better, your healthcare provider may send you home and have you come in for follow-up appointments.

The musculoskeletal rehabilitation process can take weeks or months. Good follow-up can help reduce the time you need to recover and make you more able to use your joints, muscles, and bones.