You've Got Questions? We've Got Answers! Shedding Light on Post-Surgical TKR Physical Therapy

Q: How long should I expect my post-surgical knee replacement physical therapy to last?

A: It's important to remember that your physical therapy will be both about strengthening the joint that was operated on as well as strengthening the muscles around the joint that have likely been weakened by inactivity. This process should take about twelve weeks and depending on your commitment to your rehab program, can be a real joy as you gain movement and strength you probably forgot you ever had. That's not to say there isn't plenty of hard work and pain to work through as well, but it's always nice to keep an eye to the sunny side of the street when you're gearing up for a long recovery time. 

Q: Should I do pre-operative physical therapy in preparation for my tkr?

A: Yes, absolutely. Anytime you’re able to do both pre- and post-operative physical therapy you should take advantage of this option. Your recovery will be accelerated and the process will be much easier with this further preparation. Find the physical therapist you’re interested in working with and ask them about pre-operative therapy options. 

Q: What are the post-surgical physical therapy exercises for a knee replacement like? 

A: The exercises you’ll be given by your pt will work to both increase mobility and range of motion in the knee and to strengthen and stretch surrounding muscles that may have become weak as you became used to compensating for your knee pain. You should be up and walking within only a day or two of your surgery. This is an important step that shouldn’t be delayed because movement is the best way to recover, even if it seems daunting. 

Also count on exercises to strengthen your quadriceps (four muscles in your upper thigh originating at the femur and connecting at the tibia), offer increased range of motion and strength in your knee, and to stretch your calf muscles and increase ROM in your ankles. These exercises can start off as simply as engaging the muscles in your quadriceps and holding that effort for a period of time. This may seem shockingly easy now, but will likely offer a challenge after you’ve undergone surgery. You’ll also work on increasing the amount you’re able to bend your knee, which will likely also include manual therapy. 

Expect all of your exercises to gradually increase in difficulty so you may find yourself becoming comfortable with the work only to have a new challenge thrown into the mix. This will also keep your three (or so) months of therapy fun and exciting. 

Q: When can I start exercising again?

A: Basic recovery from your arthroplasty is surprisingly fast, you should be up and moving in just a few days and other daily activities don’t follow too far behind. However, it’s best to invest all your energy into the rehab program during your twelve week rehab period and focus on developing your additional exercise routine after this period. If you’re feeling like you absolutely have to add in exercise in addition to your therapy program, then carefully go over your plans and expectations with your therapist before you start to engage in any physical activity. Just to be safe, don’t count on running any races or taking on a triathlon while you’re working through your recovery period.

Find more ideas on post-surgical physical therapy here!