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What to Expect after Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee Replacement Surgery:

Do you find that daily activities have become painful due to joint pain? Arthritis, injuries and overuse of muscles and joints can cause pain and lead to limited mobility.  In some cases normal daily activities like standing, walking, climbing stairs and bathing can become painful.  When the body does not respond to conventional non-surgical treatments (medication, physical therapy, injections) further diagnostic testing may be performed to determine the amount of arthritic damage that is in the knee.  Based on the results of your testing, a joint replacement may be recommended.  In this procedure, an orthopedic surgeon replaces the original damaged joint surfaces with a prosthesis (artificial joint surfaces) made of metal or high-quality plastic.

Questions to consider before having Knee Replacement Surgery:

  1. How much pain am I currently in?  If the answer to this question is “a lot of pain”, then it may be time to consider knee replacement surgery.  If the answer is “not a lot” or “it comes and goes” then you may consider holding off until a later time.
  2. How does my knee effect my overall function?  If the answer to this questions is “my knee pain keeps me from doing my daily activities or the activities I enjoy (hobbies)” then you should consider the surgery.  If your knee pain does not keep you from performing your desired level of activity then you should wait to have your surgery.
  3. Do you have confidence in your surgeon?  Knee replacement surgery is a significant surgery and you want to have the utmost confidence in the individual performing your surgery.  Do your homework so you know what your surgeon’s results are like.  Create your list of questions and make sure that you ask your questions and get answers that are satisfactory to you.
  4. Are you mentally ready for this procedure?  Recovery from this surgery can be tough if you are not prepared for it.  Understand that there will be some pain involved as you work to restore movement, strength, and function.  But remember this pain will be temporary and once your rehabilitation is complete, you are going to get back to your normal activities without pain!

What to expect following knee replacement surgery

Knee replacement surgery tends to be common.  Since the the knee is a weight-bearing joint it tends to create breakdown of the cartilage surfaces leading to arthritis.  This procedure is called ‘Total Knee Arthroplasty.  Knee replacements were first performed in the late 1960s and have come a long way since then.  Today, physicians are able to choose from a wide variety of knee replacements to suit the patient’s overall health, age, weight, and desired activity level following surgery.

An important goal after surgery is progressive mobility of the new joint.  I always tell patients the movement mantra is “Early and Often”.  A physical therapist will create a plan to improve motion and regain strength in a controlled manner based on the patient’s response to treatment.  The individual will also be advised about which positions to avoid, in an effort to protect the joint while it is healing. Physical therapy is a safe, effective treatment option and will help the individual to recover from knee replacement surgery.

It’s normal to have concerns before any surgery.  After all, you want to return to an active lifestyle as quickly as possible.  This requires planning before and after the surgery and exactly where physical therapy can help. Your therapist will encourage and show you how you can stay as active as long possible prior to the knee replacement surgery.  Staying active will minimize muscle loss, minimize ROM loss and help speed up recovery after the surgery.

Often times it is helpful to ask a family member, friend, or a caregiver to help you in the recovery process.  The physical therapist will educate these individuals on how they can help you in the early stages of recovery. Over a period of time, you’ll learn to become independent as your body heals.  A physical therapist will prescribe stretching exercises to restore mobility after the surgery.  You will be asked to walk, possibly with crutches, a walker, or a cane for additional support.  Under the watchful eye of the physical therapist, you will regain confidence and begin to move indoors, then outdoors.  It’s normal to experience a little pain and discomfort initially. Don’t worry, your therapist will make sure you don’t push yourself too much and also help you understand the pain that you are feeling.  As you motion returns your physical therapist will teach you exercises to strengthen your knee.  The ROM and strengthening exercise will be given to you as you can tolerate them and will facilitate a rapid and successful recovery.

Your physical therapist is an important ally for you and a critical member of your healthcare team as you recover from knee replacement surgery.  Since each patient is different, your therapist will tailor your exercises and advise you about the do’s and dont’s based on the guidelines established by the surgeon. This will enable you to get the best possible result from your surgery; remove fear, regain freedom, restore mobility, and finally enjoy an active pain-free lifestyle.

If you or someone you know is considering (or has already had) joint replacement surgery, physical therapy can help.  To find out more about how we can help, call us for an appointment today.  We’ll do everything we can to get you back on your feet as quickly as possible.  Don’t let knee replacement surgery hold you back from a normal, active lifestyle.

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