The scoop about knee replacements and physical therapy:
The main reason for a total knee replacement (TKR) is severe osteoarthritis(OA) of the knee. A person with OA of the knee typically presents as: older age, gradual onset of pain, possible prior trauma or surgery, swelling, knee giving out, and stiffness in the morning that improves after about 30 minutes. Premier Physical Therapy is here for you every step of the way during your knee replacement process!
BEFORE TKR: Many people wonder why they are sent to physical therapy(PT) prior to getting a knee replacement and how PT can help. There is high level evidence for PT for people with knee OA, to decrease disability levels and prevent a TKR. With technology today, the advancements in knee replacements change about every 3 to 4 years, constantly improving the way in which knee replacements are performed and improving outcomes. Physical therapy can help delay the need for a knee replacement for those few years, likely allowing a person to have access to a better, more advanced surgery than they would have a few years before. Another reason for PT before knee surgery is that outcomes are improved when a person has better range of motion and strength of their knee and hip prior to surgery. Evidence shows that exercise with a physical therapist is superior to exercise at home, unsupervised. There is also strong evidence for manual treatment for knee OA (when the physical therapist uses his or her hands on the knee to help with pain and mobility). Additionally, evidence shows that PT for the hip, back, and ankle can also help with knee pain from OA. A physical therapist can also help inform you of the entire TKR process and provide education and tips for a successful outcome of your surgery, while answering any questions you may have.
AFTER total knee replacement: Sometimes, knee pain can negatively impact a person’s life so much that the only option is a TKR. After surgery, regaining range of motion is incredibly important if a person wants to return to their daily life without knee pain. Normal range of motion is essential to being able to walk normally, which prevents many other complications from developing. Regaining strength of the knee and hip is also incredibly important. A person’s muscles undergo a lot of stress during a TKR, and they need a lot of love and care afterward to return to their normal use. Range of motion, strength, balance, and normal walking mechanics are all important to regain, and require a skilled physical therapist to evaluate and treat. Everyone’s recovery is different, and a physical therapist can individualize each treatment plan based on experience and evidence in the research.
-Amy Foskett, PT, DPT
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