How long is physical therapy after a knee replacement?

After surgery, there is always a recovery time required before you’re able to get back onto your feet. When you have surgery on your knee, such as a knee replacement, you have to work hard to slowly restore its strength, flexibility and range of motion.

Physical therapy plays a vital role in rehabilitation after knee replacement. While you won’t be completely ready to walk, run and jump after just one session, a physical therapist can help accelerate your recovery. Even though everyone’s body heals differently, physical therapy after a knee replacement averages up to three months

Read on to learn about why you may require a knee replacement and what’s involved in physical therapy treatment for post-surgery rehab. You’ll also learn about factors that can impact the length of your physical therapy.

The basics of a knee replacement

Your knee carries a majority of your body weight. So it’s important that it’s in the best shape possible to make sure that you’re able to carry out your daily physical tasks. When your knee sustains damage that won’t heal on its own, or you have persistent or worsening pain, your health care provider may recommend that you get a knee replacement.

Partial or total knee replacement surgery, called arthroplasty, involves removing the damaged cartilage and bone. Then they are replaced with artificial parts made of plastic or metal. The goal is to alleviate pain and restore your knee’s range of motion, especially after it’s been affected by an injury or medical condition.

A knee replacement might be recommended for people who have:

The process of physical therapy after knee replacement surgery

Physical therapy starts almost immediately after your surgery. Even though some may assume that rest is the most essential part of recovery, it’s important to get your body used to moving with your new knee.

We’re going to walk you through the three months of post-rehab physical therapy so you know what to expect. It’s important to note that this is the typical process, but it can vary from case to case, depending on how quickly and effectively your physical therapist believes you’re responding to each stage. 

  • Week 1-4 — The first stage is all about getting you used to walking with your new knee. This means helping you walk while starting to build up your knee’s strength and range of motion. Your physical therapist will help improve your mobility with techniques like gait training and using a recumbent exercise bike. You’ll use an assistive device to walk for the first few weeks, such as a cane, but most people no longer need one by the fourth week.
  • Week 5-8 — In the second month of your rehabilitation, you should have little to no inflammation and swelling. Your physical therapist will slowly increase the intensity of your exercises to help increase your strength and mobility. At this point, you’re likely able to walk a considerable distance without assistance from someone else or a cane. Your therapist will determine what activities you can return to, such as cooking, cleaning or working at a desk job.
  • Week 9-12 — In most cases, the third month marks your final stage of physical therapy, which involves moderate- to high-intensity exercises, though modifications can be made based on your knee’s ability. Exercises like heel raises, hip inductions and leg balances will not only strengthen the muscles that surround your knee joint for stability, they will increase the knee’s flexibility and function as well.

Factors that can lengthen or shorten your knee replacement physical therapy time frame

Even though the average time frame for post-knee replacement physical therapy is 12 weeks, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. It can be subject to change for every person. There are a couple of factors that can cause post-rehab physical therapy to last shorter or longer than expected.

Due to the decrease of bone density and muscle strength as you age, older knee replacement patients may have a slower healing process than younger patients. That means the stages of post-rehab physical therapy can take a bit longer to ensure that they aren’t at risk of overexertion or injury. The opposite can also be true, with young patients potentially having a shorter time frame due to their quick healing time, especially if they have active lifestyles.

Preexisting medical conditions and sustained injuries may also extend your physical therapy after knee replacement surgery. Your body may not respond as quickly to physical therapy exercises and treatments if your body has been impacted by other issues, such as scar tissue injuries or chronic conditions.

Back in Motion offers physical therapy to help restore mobility after a knee replacement

When you have a knee replacement surgery, physical therapy is the key to helping you restore your mobility and function. In about 12 weeks, you should be able to walk without an assistive device, bend your knee without pain and return to many of your routine activities. Let us help you get Back in Motion.
Contact us today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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