Total knee replacement is just one—admittedly big—step back on the path to mobility. Often it must be accompanied by intensive physical therapy to fully rehab the body. Here is what to typically expect after the surgery.
Those First Few Days
Believe it or not, you will probably begin moving about with a walker or crutches within 24 hours post-surgery. Most physicians feel it is very important to get patients mobile right away. (You still will likely feel some discomfort or pain, which is completely normal.) The physical therapist will teach you exercises to increase knee movement and help you to strengthen the muscles in your leg and increase movement in your knee. You might start using a continuous passive motion machine that gently bends and straightens your knee automatically. Additional activities could include: walking a few steps with an assistive device, sitting bedside or in a chair, and moving to bedside commode.
For the next few days, you will slowly increase your activities and exercises, such as walking to the opposite side of the room with an assistive device, getting off and on the toilet, and going up and down a couple of steps.
Hopefully by discharge, you will see some marked improvements, including climbing a few more steps, bathing and dressing unassisted, and straightening and bending the knee to a 90-degree angle (or at least getting closer to that point).
After 6 Weeks
You might not need to use crutches or a walker at this point in time. The physical therapist will provide a group of exercises for you to do at your home. Do not get discouraged, as some days will be likely harder than others. Staying consistent with the physical therapy and rehab is vitally important. By following through with everything prescribed, the hope is that you can regain mobility faster and return to your coveted everyday schedule—work, shopping, driving, and more. However, if you do experience any severe discomfort, be sure to contact your physical therapist or doctor right away with your concerns.
After 12 Weeks
Double check with your therapist or physician first, but by this stage, you should be able to participate in select low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, biking, and golfing. However, it is still best to avoid more intense things like contact sports, running, and any sort of aerobics. These high-impact, strenuous activities could damage the artificial joint and lay waste to all that time and hard work you put in over the past few months.
Help Is Out There
More than 4.5 million Americans are now living with at least one total knee replacement, so you are certainly not alone on your quest for a healthy, active, and pain-free life. The experienced interdisciplinary team of health care professionals at Evergreen Health and Rehabilitation will be happy to answer any additional questions you may have on short-term rehab and physical therapy.