Knee pain is a common issue, and most individuals will experience it at some point in their lives. Many learn to live with this aggravating pain on a daily basis. However, if the pain grows so severe that daily activities become hard to perform, replacement surgery might be the only option for a patient. Knee replacement surgery (total knee arthroplasty) is typically considered for individuals over the age of fifty who suffer from severe osteoarthritis, and physical therapy is a very important factor in having a successful replacement outcome.
Most patients are aware they will have to undergo rehabilitation after surgery, which will involve a physical therapy program. After surgery, the patient will stay in the hospital for only three to five days and a therapist will already be there to help them get up and moving the day after the surgery. The therapy process doesn’t stop there, and continues long after you are discharged from the hospital. Typically, patients will start to walk with the help of a walker or cane, but after six weeks of therapy most can walk comfortably with no assistance device. In the final stage of rehabilitation, outpatient therapy, the focus will be on improving range of motion, strength, balance, and gait deficits. This final stage may last up to three months. It is important to remember that not all knees are created equally – each replacement is different, and the healing time differs based on individual factors. However, the good news is that about 85% of knee replacements last for twenty or more years.
While post-surgery rehabilitation programs are common knowledge, fewer patients are aware that they can benefit greatly from pre-habilitation programs, or exercise plans you perform before surgery. Taking therapeutic action before surgery can help you recover faster, and strengthening the musculature around your hip and knee joint allows you to reap the benefits of rehab before the actual surgery. Daily exercises can help prepare your body, speed up recovery, and improve your overall health. In as little as 30 minutes a day (two 15-minute sessions), you can improve your circulation, strengthen muscles that will soon support your new joint, reduce fatigue and muscle soreness, and possibly reduce your risk for blood clots.
Some examples of Prehabilitation Exercises include:
- Ankle Pumps: Lie on your back and flex your ankle up and down.
- Quad Sets: Lie on your back with your leg straight. Push your knee down into the floor or your bed, tightening up your thigh muscle. Hold for five seconds.
- Gluteal Set: Lie on your back with your legs straight. Squeeze your buttocks for five seconds, then relax.
- Heel Slides: Lie on your back with your legs straight. Bend your surgical knee by sliding your heel towards your buttocks.
- Sitting Knee Flexion: Sit on a chair with a towel rolled under your surgical leg and both feet flat on the floor. Then slide one foot backwards along the floor, bending your surgical knee. Hold for a few seconds then slide your foot forward.
- Short Arc Quads: Lie on the ground with a rolled up towel under your knee. Slowly straighten your surgical knee by lifting your foot up while keeping your knee on the rolled towel. Hold for five seconds.
- Standing Hip Abduction: While standing, raise your leg out to the side. Keep your leg straight and keep your toes pointed forward the entire time. Use a walker for balance if needed.
- Long Arc Quads: Sitting in a chair, straighten your surgical leg, hold for five seconds and bend back down.
- Standing Hip Extension: While standing, move your leg back. You can use a chair for balance.
- Single Leg Stance: Stand on one leg and maintain your balance.
These exercises can be performed twice a day, two sets of ten repetitions.
If you have more questions about knee pain or recovering from surgery, feel free to contact your local Foothills Phoenix physical therapy clinic today! Our therapists will create an individualized plan for your recovery, so you get exactly what your body needs to heal.