If your knee is severly damaged, it may be nearly impossible to perform daily tasks such as walking up and down stairs, bending to pick things up, and participating in the physical activities that you once enjoyed.
A total knee replacement (TKR) involves removing the ends of the bones at the knee joint (the tibia, sometimes called “shin bone”) and the femur (thigh bone) and replacing them with artificial parts. Replacement parts consist of a metal cap placed on the end of the femur and a plastic cap placed on the top of the shin bone. Sometimes, a plastic insert is used to replace the kneecap.
Can a Physical Therapist Help You?
Yes, a physical therapist can be of great help before your surgery, immediately afterwards, and during your recovery process. Continue reading to learn more about what we do each step of the way.
The better physical shape you are in before TKR surgery, the better your results will be (especially in the short term). Before surgery, we will teach you exercises and show you how you will walk with assistance after your operation. We will discuss precautions and home adaptations, such as removing loose rugs or strategically placing a chair so that you can sit instead of squatting to get something out of a low cabinet. It’s always easier to make these modifications before you have surgery.
Immediately Following Your Surgery
With a total knee replacement you likely will stay in the hospital for a few days. During this period we can show you how to practice walking with a walker or crutches, teach you how to safely get in and out of bed or a chair, and help you continue to do the flexibility and strengthening exercises that you learned before your surgery. During this period, it’s necessary to control the swelling in your knee and to help your incision heal. Depending on your situation, we may perform electrical stimulation, where electrodes are placed on the skin to stimulate the nerves around the knee to help reduce pain and swelling and promote healing.
We may also apply cold to the knee to help decrease swelling and may recommend that you wear support stockings.
Proper rehabilitation after a total knee replacement is essential to your recovery. We will help you regain as much of your knee range of motion as soon as possible. At this point, you might be walking with a cane or with one crutch.
During this phase we will tailor range-of-motion exercises, progressive muscle-strengthening exercises, body awareness and balance training, and activity-specific training to meet your individual needs.
Occasional swelling of the knee joint and lower leg can occur for up to 3 months after surgery. To relieve swelling, you can wear support stockings, apply a cold pack, and elevate your lower leg on a pillow when sitting or lying down.
If you begin working with a physical therapist right from the start, they can help speed up your return to activity and help make your new knee better than the old one. As you begin thinking about scheduling your total knee replacement surgery, be sure to include a physical therapist in your plan. Remember, you don’t have to live with pain.