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What to Expect After a Knee Replacement

January 29, 2020

Undergoing any type of joint replacement, including a knee replacement, isn’t a decision people enter into lightly. Part of making a thoughtful decision about undergoing surgery is understanding what will happen after the procedure.

Part of our mission at West Tennessee Healthcare is to ensure that all patients receive the educational information they need to make informed decisions. That’s why Jay Wentworth, PT, Program Manager at Sports Plus North, is answering some common questions about recovery after knee replacement. 

Q: Should exercises be performed before knee replacement?
A: In many cases, yes. The stronger you are prior to surgery, the more strength you will have following surgery.

Muscle has memory and can bounce back to prior functionality if worked correctly. Tissue elasticity is another factor following surgery. The better the motion in a knee prior to surgery, the easier it is to regain that motion once surgery has been performed. 

But there are exceptions, so it’s important to heed your doctor’s instructions. Pain often limits activity prior to surgery, and if pain is an issue, pushing into the pain zone and irritating the knee is not recommended.

Q: Where should I go for rehab following a knee replacement?
A: The exact answer to this question will depend on your specific needs.

Most physicians will send patients to home health or outpatient physical therapy after a knee replacement. If you’re unable to move around following surgery, home health may be needed.

But typically, the sooner you can get to outpatient therapy, the sooner you’ll be able to return to functional activity. Sports Plus Rehab Centers can take care of your needs.
Q: What can I expect, pain-wise, after a knee replacement?
A: This is a question on the mind of most patients who are anticipating a knee replacement. Pain is expected following the reconstruction of the knee.

Controlling inflammation following surgery is the key to limiting pain. Application of cold will greatly assist with that. Getting on a regular routine is a good idea to manage the pain and inflammation. 

Ice packs can be bought, made at home, or your doctor can order a Polar Pack or Game Ready to circulate ice water. Polar Pack just circulates ice water, whereas the Game Ready adds a compression aspect while circulating ice water. 

Q: When will I be able to get up and moving after knee replacement?
A: There are a couple key components when it comes to moving around effectively and without discomfort following knee replacement—range of motion and mobility.

Range of motion is challenging, and therapy is needed promptly after surgery to help restore it. The goal is to get to at least 90 degrees in the first two weeks, working passive and active motions. The goal for the third week is 105 degrees. The overall goal will be a minimum of 120 to 135 degrees, and some may go beyond those numbers.

Extension is extremely important to achieve first. If you do not have full extension, a limp during walking will be present.

Mobility-wise, most people following knee replacement will go home with a walker and use it around the house until they’re able to progress to a cane.

A physical therapist will determine when you should change assistive devices. The overall goal will be to return to prior level of function without an assistive device.

Q: What can I expect from physical therapy following a knee replacement?
On your first day of therapy, an evaluation will be performed. Measurements and baselines are obtained during this appointment, and therapy goals and patient goals will be set.

Range of motion and strength will be the keys in getting you back to your prior level of function. You will be given a home exercise program that should be followed daily and changed according to your progress in physical therapy.

As you progress, your exercises should be changing as well. Having a knee replacement is not easy and should not be taken lightly. Being pushed in therapy, along with doing home exercises, will get you back to a functional status.

Overall, the therapy experience after a knee replacement is good. People get back to doing things they once were doing before. With a little sweat and hard work, obtaining those goals is reasonable and the outcomes are very rewarding. 

If you’re recovering following a knee replacement, SPORTS PLUS REHAB CENTERS offer the comprehensive physical therapy you need. With 14 clinics across west Tennessee, SportsPlus is conveniently located close to you.