Physical Therapy After Knee Surgery

Physical Therapy After Knee Surgery
Physical Therapy | 10 Jan 2024
Knee injuries are a very common occurrence in the United States and can result for a variety of reasons. Surgical intervention is often performed if the nature of the injury cannot be resolved or alleviated with more conservative methods like physical therapy. Some of the top surgeries performed include total knee arthroplasty (TKA) also known as a total knee replacement, ACL or other ligament reconstructions, and meniscus repairs. In almost all cases, physical therapy after knee surgery is highly recommended for the best outcomes.

Why would someone need knee surgery?

Someone with severe osteoarthritis and changes in their cartilage and bone integrity, would have a TKA performed. The pain, structural deformities, and functional restrictions from this condition can be debilitating. Ligament surgeries (ACL) are recommended in individuals who have the inability to function due to the pain and instability of their knee or who are involved in a higher demand job/sport. Meniscus surgeries may be performed in patients who also are having issues with pain, locking, and overall decreased function of the knee.  It is important to consider that there are many criteria that are assessed before the decision of a surgery is even considered. It is always on a case by case basis and one person with an ACL or meniscus tear may be able to function their whole life without ever going into the operating room while another requires it. Regardless of the reason, physical therapy after knee surgery is always recommended for patients to return to their best selves.
Each surgery and surgeon may have differing protocols but physical therapy after knee surgery may begin anywhere between a few days to two weeks post operatively.

What to expect after knee surgery:

Each surgery and surgeon may have differing protocols but physical therapy after knee surgery may begin anywhere between a few days to two weeks post operatively. The rehabilitation process will be different depending on the type of surgery as well as the timeline in returning to more advanced activities. For example, someone with a minor meniscus repair or removal may be able to return to running within a couple months whereas someone with an ACL reconstruction may take about 3.5-4 months as long as everything is recovering as expected. 

Our team of physical therapists work one on one with each patient and the initial stages of therapy are more hands-on trying to regain normal mobility and decrease pain. As part of our post surgical recovery therapy, we educate our patients on all aspects of their recovery and work on exercise that progressively gets challenging week by week. We also make sure to assess weekly to make sure patients are meeting their markers before moving onto the next stages of their rehab. The great news is the majority of patients perform really well in physical therapy and return to doing what they love. If anything, they may be better than they were before their surgery at their overall performance!

What determines good outcomes after surgery?

Example of Physical Therapy After Knee SurgeryHaving realistic expectations and proper education about recovery is something not spoken enough about before surgery. It is not uncommon for an ACL patient to take at least one year to fully feel like themselves again and return to full blown sport. It is also normal to not regain full range of motion of your knee after a knee replacement. There may be swelling and stiffness in your knee that lasts beyond the first month of your surgery. But this does not mean that you will be limited in your life. According to the AAOS, “more than 90% of modern total knee replacements are still functioning well 15 years after the surgery.” It is simply about respecting the healing process and understanding your body is now adapting to something new. If you know what may happen and generally how long it may take after your surgery to return to things you are more likely to be compliant with your physical therapy protocols after knee surgery. Having a good relationship with your surgeon and Physical Therapist is also key  to make sure the recovery process goes smoothly.

Have questions? Contact us Today!

At the Training Room we take great pride in helping patients return to their best lives after knee surgery. Our intention with physical therapy after knee surgery is to help patients perform better than they did prior to their procedure. We are experts in post surgical rehabilitation and want to help you achieve your goals.

About the Author

Dr. Sonia Saini

Dr. Saini has 9 years of experience working with a variety of patients from young athletes to film/tv stunt performers. Her specialties are in orthopedics, vestibular/concussion rehabilitation, and post cancer rehab. She also goes on U.S. tours with Broadway shows as the sole physical therapist for performers/crew. Dr. Saini earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from University of California, Davis. She went on to earn her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from University of California, San Francisco.