You're scheduled to have that painful knee joint replaced. After the surgery, you'll spend a couple of days in the hospital, then you'll go home where the real work begins. Regaining strength and motion in your knee means spending weeks doing physical therapy and making steady incremental progress. Here is how to have a successful recovery after your new knee joint replacement.
Physical Therapy Starts Quickly After Surgery
Within a few hours after your knee surgery, the staff will get you up out of bed into a chair. They will show you the correct way to move from the bed to the chair and back again while supporting your knee. You'll then be shown how to get to the bathroom using crutches while touching your foot lightly to the floor.
A physical therapist will show up that afternoon or evening to give you pointers on walking with your crutches. They will focus on taking a few steps in your room and out into the hallway. The next day, the therapist will have you walk farther and help you to be more steady on your crutches. If you have the strength and stamina for it, the therapist will show you how to go up and down a few stairs with your crutches.
Your doctor will monitor your incision and progress on the crutches. When they are satisfied that the wound is healing properly and you are steady on your crutches, you'll be discharged to go home for the remainder of your recovery.
Regaining Range of Motion
The first phase of physical therapy you'll do is to regain the full motion in your knee joint. The muscles in your knee have become tense and contracted, causing your knee to feel stiff. You'll be unable to bend your knee more than a few degrees. The physical therapist will begin by moving your knee themselves to gently stretch the muscles that have contracted. The therapist will also show you exercises you can do yourself to stretch out the muscles.
The therapist will measure your range of motion at each session. It takes several sessions to gain back a few degrees of motion. Rushing the process can injure your muscles and set back your recovery time. Set the pace with your therapist and stick to that during this phase. When you're able to move your knee through its full range of motion, your doctor will have you begin muscle strengthening.
Strengthening the Knee Muscles
In this phase of recovery, you'll become more active as you put your knee through exercises designed to build up the muscles around the knee. Not only do those muscles help you walk, they support your knee and protect it from injury. Your therapist will have you walk more, use a treadmill and stationary bicycle. Again, you'll set the pace with the therapist.
This can be a dangerous time because, as you feel better, you'll be tempted to push yourself beyond the limits. You'll risk overworking your knee, and perhaps falling, which will slow down your recovery. You could even require additional surgery if the injury is severe. Slow and steady progress is the key to gaining back your muscle strength and safely regaining full use of your new knee joint.
For a physical therapist in your area, contact an office such as Advance Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation.