Knee Replacement and Physiotherapy
Your knee is one of your most important joints, made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and other types of tissue. It’s a hinge that allows your leg to move back and forth while supporting the weight of your body.
Your knee may be damaged in an acute injury on the sportsfield or through wear and tear over many years (the most common reason for a knee replacement is osteoarthritis). If there’s significant damage that impairs your quality of life, then you may be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon who may recommend a knee replacement.
What is a knee replacement?
A knee replacement (or knee arthroplasty) is a type of surgery that cuts away damaged bone and cartilage from your shin, femur and kneecap and replaces it with an artificial joint. The aim is to relieve pain, restore function and improve your quality of life.
The operation itself lasts a couple of hours and involves a few days in hospital followed by several weeks of recovery at home while swelling around your knee subsides. Most knee replacements last about 15 years.
Rehabilitation after knee replacement surgery
Rehabilitation helps strengthen your knee and the supporting muscles after surgery, aiming to get you moving confidently again.
Early mobilisation means moving on your new knee within 4-8 hours of your surgery. It’s becoming more common in Australia because it offers:
- Psychological benefits that aid recovery such as a greater sense of satisfaction and less pain
- Reduced rates of post-operative complications like deep vein thrombosis, pneumonia, lung collage, urinary tract infections, sepsis, myocardial infarction and stroke
- A shorter hospital stay.
The essential role of physiotherapy in knee replacement surgery
Physiotherapy plays a key role in helping you recover from surgery and enjoy your new knee to the max.
The hospital physio will probably see you shortly after your operation to help you start bedside exercises such as tightening your thighs or moving your ankles. As the days go on, you’ll start walking with crutches or a walker for support. The hospital physio will probably also suggest some exercises for you to do in the early days at home after you’ve been discharged from hospital.
Continuing help from a physiotherapist can aid your recovery, helping you walk, climb stairs and return to normal activities. Your physiotherapist can create a program of exercises designed to strengthen your knee without overdoing it. As you grow stronger, your physiotherapist will increase your exercises to continue your recovery.
Knee replacement recovery exercises
Your knee doesn’t operate in isolation. It’s supported by other joints and muscles, so knee rehabilitation starts there, strengthening your thighs, calves and ankles.
There are a range of knee replacement recovery exercises designed to help you at each stage of your recovery.
While lying in bed, you could:
- Tighten and release your thigh muscles
- Lift one leg up off the bed a little, keeping your knee straight, then lower it
- Pump your ankles up and down to contract your calf muscles
- Place a towel under your heel then tighten your thigh to straighten your knee
- Slide your foot along the bed and back, bending and straightening your knee.
In the early days at home, you can continue your knee rehab by:
- Walking, initially with crutches or a walker, and gradually putting more weight on your knee as you gain strength
- Climbing stairs, ensuring you use a handrail and crutch for support, going up on the good knee and down on the bad.
As the weeks go on, you can:
- Stand upright, hold onto something and then lift your knee up
- Lie on your back, put a rolled up towel over your ankle and grasp both ends, then pull your ankle towards you, bending your knee as you do
- Cycle on a stationary bike to strengthen the muscles around your knee.
Your physiotherapist can also advise you on the best ways to protect your new knee while living a full life and enjoying a range of activities. Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid high-impact activities like running, skiing or tennis and focus on swimming, cycling, walking or dancing.
How can The Brisbane Spine Clinic help
Physiotherapy after knee surgery is a vital part of your recovery. The Brisbane Spine Clinic is here to help you grow in strength and confidence following your knee replacement surgery. As skilled physiotherapists, we know how to tailor a program of exercises to your needs, increasing the challenge as you grow stronger. We’ll also talk about ways to stay fit in the long term while protecting your knee.
If you’d like help after knee replacement surgery, please contact us.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.