What to Expect After a Knee ReplacementJune 6, 2019
So you’re having your knee replaced and you have no idea what to expect. Well, Total Performance Physical Therapists are here to calm your fears and give you a realistic picture of what will happen after your surgery.
Before we discuss what you should expect in physical therapy, let’s briefly go over what happens in surgery. The knee joint is the connection between the thigh bone (femur) and the shine bone (tibia). The surgeon will replace the parts of the femur and tibia that touch each other with a metal that allows your knee to move more freely. There will be a scar from just above to just below your knee.
Physical Therapy will be important after your surgery for several reasons:
- To decrease scar tissue – Scar tissue can make your knee stiff, making it difficult for you to bend your knee. Total Performance PT will keep your knee moving to make sure scar tissue doesn’t settle around the new joint.
- To decrease swelling – Swelling is a natural effect of any type of surgery, but it can also make bending and straightening your knee difficult
- To strengthen – Total Performance PT will help strengthen not only your major knee muscles, but also your other leg muscles that may have become weak from before you had surgery.
- To get you back to doing what you love! – Total Performance PT will discuss with you exactly what activities you’d like to be doing so we know how to progress you through therapy.
Immediately after surgery, the physical therapists at the hospital will help get you out of bed. It is important to get out of bed as soon as you can to get your joint moving. Moving your knee will help decrease swelling and decrease scar tissue build up. They will also teach you how to use your walker and how to do important things like get in and out of bed and sit down to use the toilet. It is important that the physical therapists help you move independently before you go home.
After you leave the hospital, you will begin seeing a therapist at Total Performance PT. We will offer you aquatic therapy to start. This is where you perform exercises in a shallow pool with physical therapist supervision. Why is aquatic therapy important? Well, after your knee replacement, you will be in some pain, but the pool will help reduce that pain. Pain is often a limiting factor in some people’s recovery, meaning that pain from therapy will stop someone from walking properly. Walking in the water reduces the weight put on the knee so moving around will be less painful. Also, the warmth of the water will be soothing to your scar and will help reduce swelling around your knee. You will also do exercises in the pool that will begin to strengthen the muscles in your leg. Strengthening these muscles will make walking on land easier and less painful as well.
Once you’ve gotten strong enough and your pain has gotten better, your therapist will progress you to exercising out of the pool. The exercises will help further strengthen the muscles in your new knee. The exercises will also help strengthen your other leg and your core muscles. This will allow you to be more stable when moving around. Most likely before the surgery, you were living with pain in your knee that limited you from doing activities you enjoy, which probably caused you to become weaker in the rest of your body. So Total Performance PT will choose exercises that will improve your overall strength for you to get back to doing whatever it is you love to do.
Very early on, your therapist will begin hands-on therapy to improve the bending and straightening motions of your knee. Those motions are essential to your ability to walk, climb stairs, sit down in a chair, take a bath, etc. This hands-on part may be uncomfortable at first, but if you continue to do the home exercises that your therapist provides for you, it should become less and less so.
It will be several months after your knee replacement until you are fully recovered. However, it is important to remember that every day will get a little bit easier. If you stay dedicated to attending your physical therapy appointments and do your exercises at home whenever possible, you will be back before you know it.
Many studies have shown that a major way for people to improve their recovery after a knee replacement is by starting an exercise program before the surgery. Physical therapists have termed it “pre-habilitation” and it is quickly gaining popularity due to its effectiveness. Check out our “Prehab” blog post next week for more information.