Knee Replacement Rehabilitation Timeline – What To Expect

Knee Replacement Rehabilitation Timeline – What To Expect

Your knee replacement surgical procedure is only the beginning of your journey toward healing and recovery. Following any knee replacement procedure, you will be expected and encouraged to undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation with a physical therapist. Why? Without physical therapy and rehab exercises designed specifically for post-surgical procedures, you may not be able to regain full function of your new knee joint, which includes stability, pain management, strength, range of motion, and weight-bearing capabilities.

It takes time to recover from any type of surgery, especially a joint replacement. Your time in physical therapy following knee replacement surgery not only allows you to slowly gain confidence in your new joint, but is also a valuable time in which your knee joint is strengthened, helping you toward the mobility, strength, range of motion and flexibility you desire – to improve your quality of life.

Let The Recovery Begin

Recovery not only focuses on pain management and rest, but also physical therapy techniques and exercises that will help you recover. Don’t be surprised when a physical therapist comes to your room after your replacement and encourages you to start moving your knee – THE VERY SAME DAY.

The purpose behind this is to help you regain your range of motion and strength, hastening your recovery process. Not to mention, you’ll still have pain medication in your system and the anesthesia will be wearing off – so these movements tend to be easier to perform on the same day. You may be asked to perform a variety of ankle exercises such as ankle pumps (pointing your ankle down and then flexing it up) This will help to increase circulation and maintain blood flow thus decreasing your risk for blood clots.

Before you’re allowed to leave the hospital, your therapist will want to see you get out of bed by yourself, walk with an assisted device (walker or cane usually), and maybe even go up and down a few steps. Your therapist will want to ensure that you can navigate your home safely to reduce your risk for falling. If you have family support that always helps!

After You Leave The Hospital

After you’ve been discharged from the hospital, you may go to your home, or sometimes get discharged to a nursing home or other rehab center – it all depends on your level of function at that time and how much help you have at home. Regardless of where you are discharged to – rehab continues. If you are in a nursing home or other facility you will get treatment. If you are home there are 2 options. 1. Have a PT come to your home (known as home care) or 2. you can go directly to an outpatient facility (where you go to a clinic). If you start out with home care, you will eventually go to an outpatient site, usually within 2-4 weeks.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends a few common and effective exercises for post new replacement surgery that include but are not limited to:

  • Assisted knee bends while laying down or standing
  • Resistance exercises
  • Riding a stationary bike

Keep in mind that rehab is a process and that healing takes time. Some days you may feel better than others, and you will experience some pain and swelling during the recovery process. The amount of pain and swelling varies for each person. Take pain medications as prescribed, but if you experience increased pain following exercise, talk to your therapist about it.

Doing your exercises as instructed will help quicken your recovery process, but you have to also keep a positive attitude about your recovery. Still, be aware that it may take several weeks before you can walk with more ease, or even be able to get rid of your cane or walker.

It’s difficult to give exact time frames but usually about eight weeks post-surgery, you should be able to enjoy normal walking and other exercises. It may take between six months to a year before you’re feeling almost “normal again”. The important things to remember are: Keep a positive attitude, follow the instructions of your physical therapist and surgeon, Stay consistent with your rehab exercises and don’t give up on yourself – know that it does get better!

Until Next Time,
Stay Happy & Healthy,

~Dr. Siobhan



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