Will I Need Physical Therapy After My Knee Replacement?

After knee replacement surgery, your new knee needs some PT. In fact, physical therapy begins before you have surgery and continues throughout your recovery and rehabilitation. Read on as our Coastal Ortho team explains why.

Prehab for knee replacement surgery

Physical therapy aims to restore your knee’s normal function, but you don’t have to wait until after surgery to prepare your joint. Our experienced physical therapists help you strengthen the supporting muscles around your joint, so you’re in the best possible condition before surgery.

Afterward, your recovery and rehabilitation will go faster and more smoothly, thanks to the effort you put in ahead of time.

Our PTs can also advise you about how to set up your home for optimal post-surgery healing. For example, you’ll want to ensure you don’t have to navigate stairs or tricky corners to get to the bathroom, and you should have meals made or delivered to save you from cooking and cleaning during the initial stages of post-operative healing.

In-hospital physical therapy after knee replacement

As soon as the anesthesia wears off, we start working on your new knee’s range of motion (ROM). Our expert PTs know how to position the joint and move your leg to make sure you have no trouble bending and extending.

Range of motion is one of the PT pillars — it begins on day one and continues for about six weeks.

At-home physical therapy after knee replacement

The second pillar of PT is strength. Although ROM and strength training go hand in hand, and you incorporate both throughout your recovery, we shift our focus to strength-building around week six. 

Specifically, you’ll work on strengthening your quadriceps (thigh muscles). Weak quads are common among knee replacement patients; sometimes because the knee injury or condition prevented them from exercising and sometimes because the underdeveloped leg muscles contributed to the knee injury or condition. 

We customize your PT program to suit your specific needs. You can expect to come see our specialists for guided exercises where we assess your progress and ensure you’re performing the movements correctly. We also give you “homework” to keep strengthening your legs on your own. 

Leg extensions, stepping, squatting, and stretching are key, but don’t overdo it. Overworking your knee before it’s ready can set you back in your recovery. Always check with our PTs before upping your routine. 

How long will I need PT after knee replacement?

Everyone is different. For example, a young, well-conditioned athlete with strong, healthy muscles will likely complete the physical therapy program faster than an elderly person with weaker muscles. Plus, individual healing rates are a significant factor in PT duration.

However, the average knee replacement patient is about 75% healed at the three-month post-op mark. 

Unfortunately, this is the time when you start feeling better and become tempted to let your PT slide. We urge you to avoid that temptation and keep up your exercises. Our team lets you know when you can start decreasing the intensity and frequency of your PT exercises, but you can expect to continue them up to a year after your surgery.

Of course, your post-knee-replacement goals influence your PT routine. Again, the serious athlete looking to return to competitive play needs a different PT program than someone who would just like to walk the aisles of a grocery store without pain.

Whatever your circumstances or goals, the Coastal Ortho team can help you recover from your knee replacement surgery. Call us in Torrance or El Segundo, California, to schedule an appointment with the Southland’s finest PTs.