Physical therapy role in joint replacements

Dr. Dan Skulavik

Do you find that daily activities have become painful due to joint pain? Arthritis, injuries and overuse of muscles and joints can cause discomfort and limit mobility. In some cases, standing, walking, climbing stairs and bathing can become painful. When conventional (non-surgical) treatments are no longer working, a joint replacement may be recommended. In this procedure, an orthopedic surgeon replaces the original joint with a prosthesis (artificial joint) made of metal or high-quality plastic.

Knee replacement surgery tends to be common, since the knee is a weight-bearing joint. This procedure is called ‘Total Knee Arthroplasty’. Knee replacements were first performed in the late 1960s and have come a long way since then. Today, physicians are able to choose from a wide variety of knee replacements to suit the patient’s overall health, age, weight, and activity level.

An important goal after surgery is gradual, progressive mobility of the new joint. A physical therapist will create a plan to improve motion and regain strength in a controlled manner. The individual will also be advised about which positions to avoid, in an effort to protect the joint while it is healing. Physical therapy is a safe, effective treatment option and will help the individual to recover from joint replacement surgery.

It’s normal to have concerns before any surgery. After all, you want to return to an active lifestyle as quickly as possible. This requires planning before and after the surgery. This is exactly where physical therapy can help. Your therapist will encourage you to stay as active as possible prior to the surgery, thus minimizing muscle loss and speeding up recovery after the surgery.

It’s best to ask a family member, friend, or a caregiver to help you in the recovery process. The physical therapist will educate these individuals to help you in the early stages of recovery. Over a period of time, you’ll learn to become independent as your body heals.

A physical therapist will prescribe gentle stretching exercises to restore mobility after the surgery. You will be asked to walk, possibly with crutches, a walker, or a cane for additional support. Under the watchful eye of the therapist, you will regain confidence and begin to move indoor and then outdoors. It’s normal to experience a little pain and discomfort initially. Don’t worry. We will make sure you don’t push yourself too much. Expect to learn supervised exercises to strengthen your knee. All these measures will facilitate a rapid and successful recovery.

Your physical therapist is an important ally for you and a critical member of your healthcare team during the recovery process. Since each patient has specific needs, we always tailor your exercises and advise you about the do’s and don’ts based on the guidelines established by the surgeon. This will enable you to get the best possible result from your surgery and enable you to+ regain freedom, restore mobility, and finally enjoy an active pain-free lifestyle.

If you or someone you know is considering (or has already had) joint replacement surgery, physical therapy can help. To find out more about how we can help, call us for an appointment today. We’ll do everything we can to get you back on your feet as quickly as possible. Don’t let a joint replacement surgery hold you back from a normal, active lifestyle.