Post-Knee Surgery: Physical Therapy for Knee Pain

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Sometimes you can do everything right, living a life guided by the best practices for knee injury prevention, and you still find yourself faced with the prospect of knee replacement surgery. Maybe you’ve had an accident or maybe the pain of osteoarthritis has become too much to bear. Whatever the cause, the good news is that knee replacement surgery is generally a highly successful operation, leaving patients with many years of pain-free walking, sitting, standing, and more.

The key to that success, though, is a dedication to the physical therapy protocol prescribed by your doctor or physical therapist.


Post-Knee Replacement Physical Therapy

The goal of knee replacement surgery is the elimination of knee pain and a return to functionality. The goal of physical therapy is to ensure the success of that surgery by maximizing range-of-motion and gradually increasing leg and knee strength.

Range-of-motion is especially important. In order to walk properly, you need to be able to bend your leg and fully extend it. This process of regaining range-of-motion can take many weeks, but you need to stick with it to avoid a gradual worsening of functionality in your new knee.


First Two Days Post-Surgery

Your physical therapy program might begin as soon as your surgery is completed. You will be encouraged to stand and walk with assistance and you will be shown how to perform your range of motion exercises.

You might find the use of a knee pulley helpful to assist you with this range of motion. The Home Ranger Knee Pulley can be used for both flexion and extension exercises and offers the added benefit of allowing pain relief through the distraction of the knee joint — a feature that is valuable for anyone suffering from knee osteoarthritis, even if no surgery is planned.


First Two Weeks Post-Surgery

During this period, the focus remains on range-of-motion and gradual strengthening. Typically there will be two physical therapy sessions per day. By the end of the second week, you should be able to bend your knee to an angle of 90 degrees.


Third through Sixth Weeks Post-Surgery

During this time your physical therapist may advise you to gradually increase your knee’s range of motion up to 105 degrees. Walking could require a walker, crutches, or a cane, but by the end of six weeks, you might find yourself able to walk without these assistive devices. You should also be seeing nice increases in the distance you’re able to walk.


Seven and Eight Weeks Post-Surgery

Depending on your progress so far, these could be the final two weeks of your knee surgery rehab. You will continue to work with your PT to maximize functional mobility, range of motion, and strength. You should be able to walk without assistive devices, and you might even perform balance exercises.

Don’t think of these last weeks as the end of your recovery, though! Be sure to discuss knee injury prevention with your doctor or PT, and learn ways that you can continue to exercise to maintain your strength and mobility in the years to come.