Joint replacement surgeries like knee and hip replacements are on the rise. With many Baby Boomers approaching their 70s, this trend is likely to continue. While patients tend to think long and hard about what the surgery will entail and the expertise of their surgeon, they don’t often consider the role of physical therapy in their recovery.
A patient’s decision to undergo a joint replacement is often a result of chronic arthritis or pain, as well as a loss of function and quality of life. Throughout the process of rehabilitation, patients are commonly frustrated about meeting their own expectations after having the joint replacement. Patients aren’t usually prepared for the discomfort of the process of healing, and the challenges of restoring their full range of motion and building the necessary strength to return to a functional level that fits their lifestyles.
What is important to know is that at the beginning of the recovery period, there is commonly swelling and pain that interferes with the ease of moving the joint, such as bending and straightening the knee or hip. It’s critical to begin moving the joint immediately after surgery, even when there is pain, in order to prevent the formation of scar tissue, which can hinder the process of restoring the range of motion necessary to do everyday tasks.
Physical therapy is particularly important after a joint replacement since a physical therapist provides treatment that decreases swelling, improves soft tissue mobility, and allows for a gradual progression of improving joint motion. PT helps a patient learn to walk again with a normal stride. If a patient’s manner of walking after a total joint replacement isn’t addressed, this can cause problems in other parts of the body, including the back, hip, knee, ankle and foot.
Patients can expect that physical therapy after joint replacement will include a variety of exercises to regain strength in a way that duplicates how we move throughout our daily lives, like being able to go up and down stairs, transfer in and out of a chair or car, run errands in the community and return to recreational activities. Full recuperation typically takes two to three months of therapy. A physical therapist provides education to help patients move through the entire recovery period.
If you or your loved one, are going through with a joint replacement surgery, commit to a full recovery by working with your physical therapist toward a stronger and healthier future. Our Care Team has extensive experience in helping patients heal.