Successful Home Recovery From Knee Joint Replacement Surgery

The replacement of your painful knee joint with an artificial one is a complicated process. The actual surgery is just the first step. The physical therapy services and home exercises that you do on your knee after the surgery determines how much functionality you will get from your knee. Here is what to expect from these activities so you'll have a successful recovery at home and a fully functional knee joint.

Passive Physical Therapy

For a few days after you get home, you'll need to rest and regain your strength. This time also gives the soft tissues in your knee a chance to heal. You'll then visit the physical therapy clinic to begin passive knee exercises.

During this stage of recovery, the therapist will move your knee through its normal range of motion. The muscles and tendons in your knee contracted and became stiff because of the surgery. Your knee will be resistant to movement. The therapist slowly stretches these muscles back to their normal length so your knee can move through all positions.

You'll also be shown how to use your hands to move your knee at home. You may be sent home with a device in which to place your knee to help move it. While at home, frequently moving your knee through its range of motion will stretch out and relax those muscles to prepare you for the next phase of recovery.

Active Physical Therapy

This is the muscle strengthening stage of your recovery. The physical therapist will have you work on machines to help strengthen the muscles in and around the knee. These muscles not only help you walk but they support your knee and prevent it from being damaged. You'll be given additional exercises to do at home to strengthen your muscles.

This is also a time to be especially careful with your knee. As you begin to feel better, you'll be tempted to push yourself, and your knee, beyond safe limits. This can result in damage to your knee and even a traumatic dislocation of the artificial knee joint.

Recovery and Pain Management

You'll experience varied levels of pain as you work with your knee through physical therapy. There are a number of ways to reduce the pain so you'll be more comfortable during your sessions and when exercising at home.

  • Take pain medication on a schedule. Don't wait until you have severe pain to take your pain medication because it won't be as effective. Take the medication on a regular schedule, even when you currently feel comfortable. Your body will have the pain relief it needs, especially during your physical therapy sessions.
  • Hot and cold packs. Apply a hot pack to your knee for a few minutes before therapy or home exercises. This increases the circulation in the knee and prepares it for the movements you'll be doing. After the session, apply a cold pack which decreases inflammation and pain that may occur as a result of your workout.
  • Aquatic physical therapy. Your therapist can help you do the exercises with your knee supported in a water tank or with you in a pool. The water supports your knee and removes the pressure of gravity. The stretching and strengthening exercises are just as effective and your knee is more comfortable.

For more information, talk to a physical therapy service.