Navigating Physical Therapy After Total Knee Arthroplasty

  • February 21, 2024
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  • Knee
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  • Jessica DiNoro

Embarking on the journey of total knee arthroplasty (TKA) signals an important step towards alleviating chronic knee pain and restoring mobility. The initial post-operative phase, especially the first month, lays the groundwork for a successful recovery.

During the first weeks post-TKA, the focus revolves around managing pain, monitoring wound healing, and initiating gentle movement. Patients are encouraged to walk with the aid of assistive devices such as walkers or crutches. Physical therapy sessions predominantly involve gentle range of motion exercises, muscle activation techniques, and instructions on proper positioning and mobility.  Ideally, we are able to initiate physical therapy within 3 to 4 days after surgery. Adherence to medication schedules and open communication with the healthcare team are paramount during this phase.

As pain and swelling begin to subside, patients can actively engage in more challenging physical therapy exercises. The emphasis shifts towards building strength, improving balance, and enhancing joint stability. Therapy sessions may incorporate activities like stationary cycling, leg presses, and proprioception exercises to stimulate muscle activation and joint mobility. Patients also receive guidance on home exercise programs tailored to their individual needs, empowering them to take ownership of their recovery journey.

As patients transition into the next phase of physical therapy, the focus expands to regaining functional independence and reintegrating into daily activities. Physical therapy sessions include practicing functional movements such as stair negotiation, transfers, and gait training without assistive devices. Patients are encouraged to challenge themselves while maintaining proper form and technique. Education on joint protection strategies and fall prevention measures becomes increasingly important as patients strive towards reclaiming their autonomy.

By the end of the first month, patients typically experience notable improvements in their mobility and confidence. Physical therapy sessions serve to promote continued progress, address any lingering impairments, and set realistic goals for the future. Patients are encouraged to continue their home exercise program and gradually increase their activity levels. Additional discussions on long-term strategies for maintaining joint health and function are had, empowering patients to embrace a proactive approach to their well-being.