Physical Therapy After Knee Replacement Surgery
Almost a million Americans undergo knee replacement surgery yearly, and over 90% of those report positive results such as reduced pain and discomfort. Out of them, even 700,000 surgeries are total knee replacements.
Most doctors will prescribe physical therapy after knee replacement to speed up healing and improve the procedure's outcomes. It is imperative that besides recovery time at home, patients commit to prescribed physical therapy as avoiding it can hinder the healing process.
In this article, we explore physical therapy after knee replacement, how it helps, and how long it takes.
When Is Knee Replacement Surgery Required?
Usually, knee replacement surgery is needed when patients:
Experience knee pain or joint damage due to diseases like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
Have difficulty walking and performing other tasks.
Have experienced knee trauma that has not responded to other treatments.
A physical therapist can help you decide whether you need surgery. Still, it is best to consult an orthopedic surgeon for a complete check-up and recommendations and to explore all the options.
During such consultation, you will also discuss physical therapy after knee replacement for your recovery.
What Is Total Knee Replacement?
Total knee replacement (arthroplasty) is a surgical procedure for replacing the whole knee with an artificial joint.
The main goal of knee replacement surgery is to replace damaged joints and reduce or eliminate pain.
The artificial joint is usually made from metal and plastic parts. During the procedure, damaged cartilage and bone are removed from the knee joint and replaced with artificial ones.
Depending on your circumstances, the doctors will administer one of the two types of anesthesia:
General anesthesia is when you're entirely unconscious during the procedure.
Regional anesthesia numbs you down below the waste. Apart from it, you will also receive medicine to make you feel sleepy.
The surgery takes about 2 hours, after which you will spend about 2-3 days at the hospital for initial recovery. After that, you will be sent home and begin your physical therapy after knee replacement.
How Can Physical Therapy Help After Knee Replacement Surgery?
Physical therapy after knee replacement is integral to recovery and will help regain your leg and knee range of motion. Most importantly, it will allow getting back to living full, normal life.
Surgery can commonly cause movement restriction as well as swelling buildup in the joint; that's why physical therapy after total knee replacement is necessary to avoid stiffness or complete inability to bend the knee.
Besides this, patients usually experience pain after surgery. They may be bed-bound for a while - an unpleasant experience that can be shortened with the help of physical therapy after knee replacement surgery.
Physical therapy after total knee replacement benefits
Physical therapy after knee replacement surgery is highly beneficial. Every patient should commit to it to achieve the best outcomes.
Here are the main benefits of PT:
Pain management. Such modalities as cold or manual therapy can help reduce pain and dependency on various medications. They can also alleviate lower discomfort and other common aches after surgery.
Faster recovery. Your physical therapist will communicate with the surgeon to create the best plan to ensure proper and much quicker healing.
Strength and balance. Various modalities and physical exercises will strengthen your muscles, help you regain balance, and increase your range of motion.
Lower anxiety and stress. The recovery process can be stressful to many people, so having someone help you go through it all can be incredibly beneficial. Your physical therapist will not only help you perform the exercises and use other healing modalities but will also protect you from potential injuries and will motivate you when you're down.
How Long Do You Need Physical Therapy After a Knee Replacement Surgery?
One of the main questions we hear is how long physical therapy after knee replacement. While it depends on each patient and their circumstances, generally, it takes around 3-4 weeks post-surgery.
First, you'll start exercising your knee and learning strengthening exercises. Your therapist may also use cold and manual therapy to help you relieve pain.
After a couple of weeks, you will work on your balance and range of motion with such exercises as ankle pumps, leg raises, knee straightening exercises, etc.
Later on, you'll move on to more activities such as swimming or stationary bike to continue strengthening your muscles and working towards the goal of being able to bend the knee.
Remember to continue performing your recovery exercises for at least another month. It is recommended to avoid such activities as running, skiing, team sports, intense cycling, or aerobics during your recovery.
So, in the case of physical therapy after knee replacement, how long until you're back to doing what you love? You should always consult your doctor, but you can expect to drive after those four weeks, return to work after 6-9 weeks, and resume some exercises after 6-12 weeks.
What Happens If You Don't Do Physical Therapy After Knee Replacement Surgery?
As we've mentioned before, physical therapy after surgery is necessary to speed up recovery and get you back to your regular activities.
But what happens if you don't commit to therapy or avoid it altogether?
This decision might not only keep your recovery stagnant but hinder it too. It's essential you start physical therapy as soon as possible because if there's not enough blood flow to the knee, it will not heal properly, and your muscles will get weak and could even atrophy.
Besides that, not having a professional guide you through the process, ensuring proper alignment, and instructing you on how to avoid further injury can also lead to problems.
Physical therapy after knee replacement is essential to recovery after the surgery.
It helps speed up the healing process, manage and relieve pain, increases the range of motion, and brings you back to your regular activities.
The treatments include cold and manual therapy, exercises, and other modalities.
Here at Miracle Physical Therapy and Massage Center, our team of board-certified physicians and licensed physical therapists will create a comprehensive care plan tailored to your needs for recovery after knee-replacement surgery. Get in touch!