How Long is Physical Therapy After a Knee Replacement
Knee replacement surgery is an important medical procedure that can help relieve pain and enhance mobility. However, following an effective rehabilitation process is essential to regain strength and mobility in your knee joint. Fortunately, physical therapy after a knee replacement can help you regain full mobility and get back to your typical lifestyle after the replacement. But how long does physical therapy take after a knee replacement surgery? The truth is that physical therapy after a knee replacement typically lasts for several weeks to several months, depending on several factors.
Today, the experts at La Clínica will explore how physical therapy works after a knee replacement and what you can expect during your rehabilitation.
What is Knee Replacement Surgery?
Knee arthroplasty, famously known as knee replacement, is a surgical procedure used to replace a diseased or damaged knee joint. During the process, the surgeon will replace your injured knee joint with an artificial joint made of ceramic components, plastic, or metal.
Knee replacement surgery is recommended for people with severe knee joint issues, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, severe inside knee pain, or post-traumatic arthritis. It’s also effective for other injuries or conditions that fail to respond to other treatments, such as medication. Knee surgery aims to enhance mobility, alleviate pain, and increase the quality of your life.
How Long is Physical Therapy After a Knee Replacement
As mentioned earlier, physical therapy after a knee replacement surgery is a vital part of the recovery process. Physical therapy can help you regain strength, mobility, and flexibility in your knee joint. In addition, it eliminates the risk of complications such as blood clots, stiffness, or infections. The question many patients ask our Chicago physical therapy team is how long physical therapy after knee replacement takes. The truth is that the duration of physical therapy after a knee replacement surgery is not cast in stone. It varies from one patient to another depending on their age, preoperative activity level, and type of replacement.
Most patients require at least 12 weeks of rehabilitation. During the first few weeks after surgery, your physical therapy rehabilitation program will consist of simple exercises to promote blood flow, maintain mobility, and reduce swelling. Your doctor of physical therapy may also recommend pain medication and assistive devices such as crutches or a walker to help with walking.
Physical therapy will become more challenging as your healing progresses and focus on restoring strength, function, and balance in your knee joint. Your doctor may recommend strength-training exercises, range-of-motion exercises, and balance exercises. You will also perform various activities to enhance cardiovascular endurance and coordination. Moreover, your specialist may also use other modalities like electrical stimulation, heat therapy, or ultrasound to improve the effectiveness of the exercises.
Factors Affecting the Duration of Physical Therapy After Knee Replacement
By now, you already know several factors that affect the duration of physical therapy after a knee replacement surgery. So, let’s uncover these factors in detail below:
The first factor influencing the duration of physical therapy after knee replacement is age. In general, older patients may require a more extended period of physical therapy due to decreased muscle strength, slower healing, and reduced bone density. Even so, it is essential to point out that the exact duration varies on a case-by-case basis, and there is no specific age limit to determine the length of physical therapy.
Physical therapy for older patients usually focuses on gentle range of motion exercises and balance training to improve mobility and prevent falls. Moreover, specialists are more likely to gradually increase the intensity and duration of workouts to prevent injury and overexertion.
On the other hand, younger patients typically require a shorter duration of physical therapy. Moreover, the intensity and duration of exercises may also be more rigorous due to their higher physical fitness and strength levels. It also focuses on activities that require greater mobility and flexibility, like jumping and running.
Another significant factor influencing the duration of physical therapy after a knee replacement surgery is your overall health condition. In most cases, patients with pre-existing medical conditions, like lung disease, diabetes, or heart disease, may require a longer duration of physical therapy. This is because specialists must design an effective rehabilitation process that reduces the risk of complications. Similarly, patients with significant muscle atrophy or significant loss of function in their knee joint may take longer to regain strength and mobility. In such cases, physical therapy focuses on specific muscle groups and range of motion.
Patients with obesity may also require an extended period of physical therapy due to the additional strain on their knee joint. For such patients, physical therapy specialists develop an effective exercise program to aid in weight loss and eliminate the risk of further damage to the knee joint. Moreover, patients who have undergone more complex knee replacement surgeries like revision surgery or a total knee replacement on both knees at the same time may also require a more extended period of physical therapy to recover fully.
✔Preoperative Activity Level
Your preoperative activity levels will also impact the duration of your physical therapy rehabilitation process. The recovery process will likely require a shorter physical therapy duration if you were physically active before the surgery. Physical therapy focuses on maintaining preoperative fitness and mobility levels for active patients while allowing the knee joint to heal completely.
The team of physical therapy doctors is also likely to introduce more challenging exercises and activities earlier in your rehabilitation process to accommodate your high level of physical fitness. In contrast, the process will take longer if you are not physically active before the surgery. The physical therapy program will include gentle exercises to prevent injury in such cases. The specialist will gradually increase the intensity and duration to enhance strength and endurance.
✔Type of Knee Replacement Surgery
The kind of knee replacement surgery you will undergo will also impact the duration of the physical therapy process. Patients who undergo partial knee replacement surgery typically require a shorter time of physical therapy than those who undergo total knee replacement. The surgical technique used during the surgery will also influence the period. For example, minimally invasive surgery allows for a faster recovery.
✔Compliance With Your Physical Therapy Program
Finally, your compliance with the physical therapy program will also determine the duration of the process. If you follow the program diligently and attend all your sessions, you will likely recover faster and require a shorter period of physical therapy after knee replacement.
Start Your Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Program Today
Are you ready to start your journey to complete recovery after your knee replacement surgery? Schedule an appointment with our Chicago physical therapy team today.