For years you have been struggling with knee pain and stiffness. Finally, the day has come and you decide to have your knee replaced. While this is a huge decision, the surgery itself is only the first step. Once you awake from your knee replacement surgery, the true rehabilitation begins.
Knee Physical Therapy needs to be taken very seriously. It is the skilled hands of your therapist, the appropriate exercises, and the use of modalities to manage pain and swelling that will be your best friend along your journey of getting your knee back.
Let’s look at what you can expect in Physical Therapy after having your knee replaced.
The First Week
Physical Therapy starts almost immediately after your surgery. Why? Well, gaining your range of motion and strength is imperative to your recovery. The ability to bend, straighten, and use your knee again comes from the work you do with your Physical Therapist.
You will most likely have some sort of Physical Therapy while in the hospital but as soon as you go home you will start outpatient Physical Therapy.
At this point you will be using a walker to get around and you will be on consistent pain medication. Keeping up on your prescribed medication will help you tolerate therapy better and allow you to be more successful.
When you first start outpatient Physical Therapy, you will work with our highly trained Physical Therapists on reducing pain and swelling. Class IV laser, a type of modality, that directly and quickly reduces your pain and swelling, resulting in improved range of motion, is available in our clinic in addition to your regular program.
Gentle manual therapy will also be utilized to improve your knee joint range of motion, muscle flexibility, decrease pain, and improve swelling. Our Physical Therapists have specialized training in the use of manual therapy as part of your knee Physical Therapy plan of care. And with this, you will have not only faster but better results.
The first week is all about managing pain, swelling, beginning range of motion, and finding out how to start using your muscles again. Expect some pain, but remember that all of this is helping you to be able to use your knee again and to get back to doing the things you love. Pain medication, ice, elevation, and compression socks are all things you can use at home between your appointments to help with pain and being more comfortable.
The First Month
During this time, your knee Physical Therapy will continue to include the use of modalities, manual therapy, and exercise, but this is when you are going to really see improvements.
You will wean off of your walker and start to walk with a cane or nothing at all. You may begin to drive again, bathe yourself, and walk short distances. But you are not out of the woods yet. Your Physical Therapist will continue to work with you on your strength and range of motion, but also your balance and coordination to ensure you stay safe while on your feet.
The first month is a time to really see improvements in your knee range of motion and the ability to use your hip muscles and your quadriceps muscle, the one found right above your knee. Being able to fully straighten your knee is very important for walking and being able to fully bend your knee helps with so many daily activities.
The First 6 Months
During the first 6 months after surgery, you will find yourself going through many ups and downs. Results may start to slow down and this may be frustrating. But in the long run, everything is improving, so don’t lose sight of your goals.
At this point you may have less focus on pain-relieving techniques and range of motion and more focus on stretching, exercise, endurance, balance, and other functional activities. This is the time to start working with your Physical Therapist on how you can start to incorporate things that you used to love to do. Golf, hike, dance, swim, or whatever it is, Physical Therapists are trained to help you move again.
During this time, expect less hands-on treatment and more emphasis on making you independent.
The First Year
You are finally at a point where you can really look back and appreciate the work that you and your Physical Therapist put together. Without their guidance, you may have been lost, but without your ability to stick to the plan, you never would have made it anywhere.
Don’t forget what you have learned and continue to work on areas of weakness.