Coordinated Health

Physical Therapy After a Knee Replacement – ‘We Got This’

By: Hannah Ropp   December 5, 2017

The decision to have a knee replacement is not an easy one. Many times people are shocked to find out their knee needs replaced. Your doctor will let you know when your knee is ready to be replaced and likewise, you will let him know when you are ready to have your knee replaced.

Physical therapy is an important part of your recovery beginning the day after surgery at the inpatient level. A therapist will come to your room the first day after surgery and help you get out of bed and start to put some weight through the affected leg. You will then work up to walking with a walker or crutches as well as learn how to use the stairs and be given some exercises to start getting the muscles in your legs working.

Once out of the hospital you will begin outpatient physical therapy. On the first day you will be evaluated by a physical therapist. The evaluation will consist of a review of your medical history, changing the dressing that is covering your incision, as well as assessment of the range of motion in your knee. You will then be instructed with some exercises, which will become part of your home exercise program. You will perform these exercises several times a day at home as well as when you come in for follow up therapy sessions. Your therapy appointments will typically be three times per week for an hour to an hour and a half. Total rehabilitation time following surgery ranges greatly, but is typically 3-5 months.

Your therapy team will work to accomplish a few goals including improving range of motion to a functional level for both bending and straightening. You will also work with them to improve your walking and progress from your walker or crutches to a cane and eventually progress to walking without an assistive device. Your goals may also include returning to work or to a specific sport or activity. Be sure to mention any of these goals to your therapist.

The following are some of the things that you may find helpful as you consider knee surgery. You will not be able to drive for a while after your surgery. Your surgeon will ultimately be the one to release you to return to driving.

Following surgery you will have staples in your incision for about two weeks. You will be instructed in the hospital on how to care for your incision and your therapist will change your dressing during your sessions until your staples have been removed. You will also have compression stockings on both legs as soon as you wake up from surgery. These are to assist with circulation in your legs following surgery because you will not be as active as normal. These will help keep the swelling down as well as help in preventing blood clots. Most doctors would like you to continue wearing these for six weeks following surgery.

Ultimately, please remember during the course of your surgery, to ask any questions you have and share with us any concerns that you have about your symptoms or your care at any time throughout this process.


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