Total joint replacements have become more common over the years, particularly in the aging population. Physical therapy is a great way to heal after a total knee, hip or shoulder replacement to get back to doing what you love in a safe, healthy way. This post will help guide you though the physical therapy after a total knee replacement.
What is a total knee replacement?
Wear and tear or a sudden injury of the knee may require a partial or total arthroplasty, aka replacement, to correct. During these procedures, parts of bone and cartilage are removed from the knee and replaced with an implant comprised of metal and medical grade plastic parts. Generally, surgery is recommended for those who have exhausted conservative treatments and are still in pain, have limited mobility and whose daily lives are impacted by the knee limitations.
What role does therapy play in recovery?
It may take a couple of weeks before your surgeon signs off on initiating physical therapy. Once therapy begins, your therapist will do an initial assessment to see what your limitations are and what your current range of motion looks like. At the beginning of your treatment plan, your therapist will work on balance, strength and mobility, slowing building as the weeks progress and you are able to tolerate more. Once you develop a higher tolerance after a few weeks, your therapist will also work on functionality for your specific needs; do you play a sport, kneel frequently for work or spend hours at a time on your feet? These types of things could dictate changes in your therapy program to ensure you are getting the most out of your experience and can return to regular activity once fully healed.
Your therapist will also discuss prevention methods to avoid injury or requiring surgery on the other knee in the future. Depending on your reason for needing replacement surgery, avoidance techniques could include changing your diet, losing weight, learning proper mechanics for your sport and keeping up with knee strengthening activities at home.
What else can I be doing to recover?
Knee exercises at home are a great way to continue your recovery after your total knee replacement. Along with your regular, in-person therapy, your therapist will write you a home plan, outlining exercises to perform at home. Much like your therapy sessions, these will likely progress over time as you are able to do more physically. This home routine could include some stretching, range of motion and stability exercises. Your doctor and therapist will work together to address your recovery status and will give you the all clear to return to your normal activities.
Whether you’ve recently had a knee replacement, are considering one or are just experiencing some general knee pain, we have additional blogs with knee stretches and exercises for you to try at home: