What To Expect After A Total Knee Replacement – A Physical Therapy Perspective Written by: Joel Maietta, DPT Does the idea of a Total Knee Replacement scare you? While the thought of having a total knee replacement sounds daunting and arduous, there are many misconceptions regarding rehabilitation following the surgery. Often people run (not literally) from the idea of having this surgery because they hear horror stories of painful therapy sessions and a long grueling recovery period. However, with proper education, motivation, and the guidance of a skilled rehabilitation team, recovery should be nothing to worry about. Why do people need Total Knee Replacements? The primary reason people require a total knee replacement is to rid their knee of a painful condition called Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis develops when the smooth cartilage that cushions your joint starts to break down resulting in stiffness, pain, and that “grinding” sensation you feel in your knee. Unfortunately, our bodies are unable to reproduce adequate cartilage to repair the lost cushioning. As a result, a surgeon must often times perform surgery to replace these painful joint surfaces with artificial materials. This allows for the return of smooth, pain-free motion in your knee. What does rehabilitation consist of after a Total Knee Replacement? The key to a successful recovery is early exercise and activity to facilitate the healing process and prevent stiffness in the knee. Our bodies are amazing healers and immediately start repairing following the surgery with the production of scar tissue. However, movement directs the alignment of this new scar tissue, so the earlier and more often you begin moving, the easier your recovery will be! Therefore, the rehabilitation process begins right away in the hospital following surgery when a skilled physical therapist begins showing you the proper technique for getting out of bed, getting up from chairs, and even walking with the use of a walker! Many are surprised that these once painful activities now feel easier and more comfortable! Once the medical staff and rehabilitation team determine you can move around safely and have proper support at home you will be discharged from the hospital. Most people only end up staying in the hospital for a few days. In some cases, additional medical monitoring is needed and you may be placed in a rehabilitation hospital in which you will receive guided Physical and Occupational Therapy while under the supervision of doctors and nurses. This stay usually lasts a few days to a week and then you are allowed to return to your household. Your safety and health are our first priority
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Once you have made it back to your home, your doctor may or may not request a therapist visit your home for a few days to continue with exercises and assist with daily activity training. Following a few home therapy sessions your doctor will direct you to begin Outpatient Physical Therapy at a facility of your choice. How do I choose where to go for Physical Therapy following a Total Knee Replacement? When choosing a facility for this phase of rehabilitation, it is important to research your options by talking to doctors and previous patients to find the place that is right for you. Outpatient Physical Therapy is your final step to a full recovery and also the longest step. That being said, it is important to find a place where you feel safe, comfortable, and where all your goals and needs will be heard and attended to. What should I expect with my Outpatient Rehabilitation following a Total Knee Replacement? You will be spending 2-3 days a week in physical therapy for sessions lasting around one hour, however it is expected that you perform home exercises daily because the time spent in therapy alone is not enough for a full and functional recovery. In the facility, a skilled Physical Therapist will work with you to further improve your ability to straighten and bend your knee as well as progress the strength of your whole leg. The greatest gift therapists have is our hands and we have been educated and trained on specific techniques to improve the mobility of your knee to allow you to move with the least amount of pain possible. Once your mobility and strength start to improve, other activities are included to improve your ability to walk without any assistive devices as well as exercises to allow you to walk up and down stairs. Most people are able to walk without a cane or walker as early as 4-6 weeks after their surgery! Your Therapist will also discuss any additional goals you may have including returning to activities such as golf, tennis, and swimming. These are all realistic goals which can be attained with proper guidance by your Therapist. At All-Care Physical Therapy Center we specialize in innovative approaches to make your recovery from a Total Knee Replacement as painless and enjoyable as possible. Our friendly staff and skilled therapists will attend to your every need and get you back to your life, so fear not the dreaded Total Knee Replacement!
Joel Maietta, DPT
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Wall Facility Manager Joel is a Physical Therapist at All-Care Physical Therapy Center and manager of the Wall facility. He received his bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences in 2007 from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT and went on to receive his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Quinnipiac in 2010. He has completed clinical rotations in acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, and outpatient orthopedic settings. Joel’s clinical interests include post-surgical rehabilitation as well as manual therapy techniques for the spine and extremities. Joel is also certified in Sole Supports custom foot orthotics for the treatment of a variety of pathologies including bunions and plantar fasciitis.