Last week, we broached the subject of Knee Replacement Surgery (total knee arthroplasty). In this week’s article, we will discuss the role physical therapy plays in recovery after the surgery.
Total Knee Replacement Exercise
Regular exercise to restore strength and mobility to your knee and a gradual return to everyday activities are important for your full recovery after knee replacement. Your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist may recommend that you exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day and walk for 30 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day during your early recovery.
This guide can help you better understand your exercise and activity program, supervised by your physical therapist and orthopedic surgeon. To ensure your safe recovery, be sure to check with your therapist or surgeon before performing any of the exercises shown.
Early Postoperative Exercises
Postoperative exercises will help increase circulation to your legs and feet, which is important for preventing blood clots. They will also help strengthen your muscles and improve knee movement.
Start the exercises as soon as you are able. You can begin them in the recovery room shortly after surgery. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but these exercises will help speed your recovery and actually diminish your postoperative pain.
Soon after your surgery, you will begin to walk short distances in your hospital room and perform everyday activities. This early activity aids your recovery and helps your knee regain its strength and movement.
Proper walking is the best way to help your knee recover. At first, you will walk with a walker or crutches. Your surgeon or therapist will tell you how much weight to put on your leg.
Walk as rhythmically and smoothly as you can. Don't hurry. Adjust the length of your step and speed as necessary to walk with an even pattern. As your muscle strength and endurance improve, you may spend more time walking. You will gradually put more weight on your leg. You may use a cane in the hand opposite your surgery and eventually walk without an aid.
When you can walk and stand for more than 10 minutes and your knee is strong enough so that you are not carrying any weight on your walker or crutches (often about 2 to 3 weeks after your surgery), you can begin using a single crutch or cane. Hold the aid in the hand opposite the side of your surgery. You should not limp or lean away from your operated knee.
Stair Climbing and Descending
The ability to go up and down stairs requires both strength and flexibility. At first, you will need a handrail for support and will be able to go only one step at a time. Always lead up the stairs with your good knee and down the stairs with your operated knee. Remember, "up with the good" and "down with the bad." You may want to have someone help you until you have regained most of your strength and mobility.
Stair climbing is an excellent strengthening and endurance activity. Do not try to climb steps higher than the standard height (7 inches) and always use a handrail for balance. As you become stronger and more mobile, you can begin to climb stairs foot over foot.
If you need post-operative therapy after Knee Replacement Surgery, please visit Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana. You will receive personal care from a professional physical therapist!
Firestein, Gary, et al. Kelley & Firestein's Textbook of Rheumatology, 10th Ed. China: Elsevier, 2016