What made you have knee replacement surgery? Was it because the pain became so unbearable you could hardly walk? Did having to climb the bleachers at your granddaughter’s basketball game keep you from watching her play? Was it that you just wanted to feel normal again?
Whatever the reason, it probably didn’t take long to realize the surgery was the easy part and the road to rehabilitation was not a short one.
Although most people can resume their basic daily activities within 6 weeks post-surgery, it takes up to one year for complete healing and recovery.
However, there are things you can do at home help you get back into the swing of things faster.
1. Sit with your knee extended.
Often the extension of the knee, not the bend, is most troublesome. Being able to straighten the knee completely is crucial to walking properly, climbing stairs and even standing. Because of this, early stages of physical therapy focus on achieving full extension of the knee.
Poor habits at home can negate gains made in physical therapy. Often people will allow the knees to stay in a slightly bent position to reduce. Some even place a pillow underneath to support the bend. But doing this will ultimately making it more difficult to get the full extension needed.
Instead of bending your knee, try to keep it extended as often as you can. This allows the muscles in the back of your leg to stretch and helps the joint relax into a straight position.
2. Walk as much as you can tolerate.
Your knee needs to move. The leg muscles will only get stronger when forced to support weight during standing and walking. Without weight bearing, these muscles will become weak and not able to move the knee joint well.
You may need use a walker or cane immediately after surgery as your balance may be different and your muscles may not seem as strong as they once were. That does not mean that you will need to use the device for the rest of your life. It just takes a while for your body to adjust after surgery.
Walking will re-engage muscles
while encouraging the new joint to work. It is important that you
are up walking as much as you can without causing additional pain.
3. Use ice to reduce pain.
Surgery is traumatic experience for your body. Pain is the natural consequence of trauma. The pain will eventual disappear. In the meantime, you can use non-pharmaceutical methods to help manage it.
One of the most common interventions prescribed is ice. Ice decreases pain by reducing inflammation. It also numbs the superficial nerves which may send the pain signals to the brain.
Even though ice is fantastic in helping to reduce pain, remember to use it only as prescribed by your doctor or physical therapist. Icing your knee too often may reduce blood flow and lengthen the healing time.
4. Be consistent with exercise programs provided by the physical therapist.
Physical therapists will provide you with different programs throughout your recovery. You will receive a program from the hospital physical therapist, maybe a home health therapist and an outpatient clinic therapist.
Each program has a specific purpose that is appropriate for where you are in the healing process. The exercise program will change over time as your leg becomes stronger and you become more independent.
Adhering to the programs prescribed by your physical therapists will give you the best chance for the quickest recovery.
Although having knee surgery will slow you down for a few weeks or months while your body heals, it won’t be long before you will be back to your old self.
Schedule an examination with a physical therapist today to see how he or she can help you throughout the recovery process and provide you with a safe and effective program so that you can return to doing all the things you love.