Walk into our therapy clinic at any given time and chances are you will find someone who is rehabbing a “new knee” It is one of the most common conditions we treat in therapy. It has rightfully earned the reputation for being one of the most difficult, but important conditions to rehabilitate after surgery.
Knee replacement surgery was first performed in 1968. Since then, improvements in surgical materials and techniques have greatly increased its effectiveness. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States.
The knee is the most commonly replaced joint in the body. The knee joint takes the brunt of force with movement, and is prone to injury and especially to arthritis as we age. Often, conservative measures are taken before surgical consideration. The first line of treatment of knee arthritis includes activity modification, anti-inflammatory medication, weight loss and physical therapy. When conservative measures do not relieve the pain then a joint replacement surgery is an option.
I am a firm believer that a little physical therapy before your surgery can go a long ways in making your recovery smoother and speedier. The better physical shape you are in before knee replacement surgery, the better your results will be (especially in the short term).
Before surgery, your physical therapist will teach you exercises and show you how you will walk with assistance after your operation. Your therapist also will discuss precautions and home adaptations, such as removing loose rugs or strategically placing a chair so that you can sit instead of squatting to get something out of a low cabinet. It’s always easier to make these modifications before you have surgery.
If you smoke, quit! That may help improve your healing after surgery. If you are overweight, focus on weight loss prior to surgery. Losing excess body weight may help you recover more quickly, and help improve your function and overall results following surgery.
An important factor in deciding whether to have total knee replacement surgery is understanding what the procedure can and cannot do.
More than 90% of people who have total knee replacement surgery experience a dramatic reduction of knee pain and a significant improvement in the ability to perform common activities of daily living. But total knee replacement will not allow you to do more than you could before you developed arthritis.
With normal use and activity, every knee replacement implant begins to wear in its plastic spacer. Excessive activity or weight may speed up this normal wear and may cause the knee replacement to loosen and become painful. Therefore, most surgeons advise against high-impact activities such as running, jogging, jumping, or other high-impact sports for the rest of your life after surgery.
Realistic activities following total knee replacement include unlimited walking, swimming, golf, light hiking, biking, ballroom dancing, and other low-impact sports. With appropriate activity modification, knee replacements can last for many years.
Currently, more than 90% of modern total knee replacements are still functioning well 15 years after the surgery. Following the directions of your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist are important and will contribute to the final success of your surgery.