Did you know that a knee replacement is one of the most common joint replacement surgeries? Because the knee is one of the major weight-bearing joints in your body, recovering from a total knee replacement requires patience and perseverance – but with a physical therapist, you have an essential ally at your side that can help you regain mobility and independence.
In this month's blog post, we're going to take an in-depth look at how physical therapy can aid you not only during recovery but also after you’ve returned home. Specifically, we'll discuss why physical therapists play such an essential role in helping post-operative patients make lasting gains toward improving their overall health.
What To Expect After A Total Knee Replacement
After any knee surgery, but especially a joint replacement, you'll likely deal with some minor stiffness, aching, or swelling. If more severe knee pain occurs or you have difficulty walking, contact your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider might recommend that you use assistive devices, like crutches or a walker to help support the knee and reduce pain while you heal. They may also suggest activities such as icing the joint, taking medications, or using heat and cold treatments. And, of course, they'll likely suggest physical therapy!
How Physical Therapy Can Help You Recover
In some ways, surgery to replace a knee joint is like sustaining an injury. After all, surgery involves cutting the skin, ligaments, muscles, and tendons that make up your knee joint. And just like doctors send their patients to physical therapy for knee injuries, they're likely to send their patients to physical therapy after joint replacement surgery.
Physical therapy can go a long way to reduce knee pain, improve joint motion, and help you regain strength and flexibility. This is because physical therapy is geared to help you and your body relearn how to move and use your knee properly. With effective treatment, you'll be back to your normal activities in no time.
What To Expect During Physical Therapy
First, your physical therapist will conduct an evaluation of your condition. They'll ask about your age, medical history, overall health, and long-term goals to develop the best program for you. That might mean doing exercises at our physical therapy and sports medicine centers, following a home exercise program, undergoing manual therapy, other treatments, or a combination.
Next, they'll create a custom plan of care that focuses on your individual needs. This plan will address the pain you're experiencing as well as your mobility and physical strength. Depending on the severity of your condition and what activities you want to be able to complete eventually, they may recommend certain knee exercises and strengthening exercises. These could include:
- Leg extensions: Also called straight leg raises, these involve lying on your back and slowly straightening both legs, with one leg in the air at a time.
- Wall squats: This exercise involves leaning against a wall with legs straight and knees bent, then slowly slipping down the wall until you reach a 90-degree angle. Wall squats can go a long way in strengthening your thigh muscles, which can help stabilize the lower body.
- Stair stepping: Just like the name suggests, this exercise involves stepping up and down, typically using a block.
Your physical therapist will also likely help you with balance and coordination exercises, knee pain exercises, gait training, and activities to improve flexibility. Additionally, your physical therapist might use manual therapy techniques, like joint mobilization and soft tissue massage, to restore range of motion and help with pain management. Ultimately, all of these treatments serve to speed the body's healing process, treat knee pain, restore knee function, and strengthen your leg muscles.
Joint replacements can be life-changing, but we understand the struggle of healing after major surgery. That's why we offer comprehensive physical therapy for joint replacement patients. Our expert team of physical therapists is here to help you every step of the way and make sure you receive the highest quality care.
With offices in Mount Lebanon and Southpointe, Pennslyvania, we’re proud to provide physical therapy services to individuals in the greater Pittsburgh area. We look forward to seeing you!