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February 04, 2020

The Importance of Physiotherapy in Knee Replacement Recovery

The Importance of Physiotherapy in Knee Replacement Recovery

When it comes to recovering from knee replacement surgery, following the advice of your physiotherapist can help you get back on your feet faster

Some of the most common questions asked about knee replacement surgery are:

  • How do you take care of a knee after surgery? 
  • How can I strengthen my knee after surgery? 
  • How long until I feel back to normal?

The answers to these questions will be different for everyone, but in every case there is one important factor that many people underestimate: physiotherapy. 

Physiotherapists play a huge part in helping you get back to doing what you love. They help you to regain strength and movement, but more importantly they help you get back your confidence and quality of life. 

If you want to get back on your feet faster, following the advice of your physio is one of the most important things you can do. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make the most of their specialist knowledge and experience. 

Prehabilitation is increasingly common

Before you have knee replacement surgery, you will most likely have an appointment with a physiotherapist. They’ll assess your individual needs and make sure you’re as prepared as possible before the operation. 

This is a great time to ask for advice about looking after yourself both before and after surgery. 

They’ll give you tips on how active you should be in the run up to your operation. The more prepared you are beforehand, the better your chances of a good recovery. 

You will probably be given a list of exercises at this point that you’ll need to do after your operation. Try them out beforehand so you know what you’re doing. As they say, practice makes perfect! 

Your specific programme will be tailored to you. Common exercises include: 

  • Ankle pumps
  • Leg raises
  • Heel slides
  • Knee extensions
  • Hamstring or calf stretches

You can also ask for advice on how to prepare yourself and your home for when you are discharged. Small things like moving any rugs that might cause you to trip, or making sure you have a well-stocked freezer, can make all the difference to your comfort when you first get home. 

Physiotherapy starts as soon as possible

Many people are surprised to hear that physiotherapy exercises will start soon after their operation. In fact there are many misconceptions about the process. 

Knee replacement surgery has come a long way in recent decades. The days of people being laid up in a hospital bed for weeks are a thing of the past. 

In the UK, joint replacement patients usually stay only a few nights in hospital. At BMI Healthcare, for example, the majority of our patients stay only 2 nights, and some even go home the same day. 

Research shows that a shorter stay in hospital is associated with better outcomes and fewer complications, so your healthcare team will want you to feel ready to go home as soon as possible. Physiotherapy is a big part of this. 

Most people will get out of bed the same day of surgery and be able to put weight on their new knee. You’ll use a walking aid – normally crutches – to help support your muscles as they get their strength back.

You’ll be encouraged to start your exercises as soon as possible and do them regularly, and a physiotherapist will be on hand to get you started on the right track. 

The exercises are designed to increase your movement, balance and strength. It’s important to do these as regularly as your physiotherapist advises.  

Questions you might want to ask your physiotherapist before you go home:

  • How do I get in and out of a car safely?
  • How often should I change position while resting? 
  • What is the correct way to use crutches? 
  • How often should I get up and move around?
  • How do I go up and down stairs safely?
  • What’s the best position to sleep in?

Recovery continues at home

Once you’re mobile and you feel confident you’ve reached your discharge goals, it’s time to go home and continue your recovery from there. 

You’ll be given tailored advice about which exercises to do and how often, as well as how and when to increase the frequency and intensity of your activity. You may well have follow-up appointments so your physiotherapist can check your progress. 

Recovery works best when you take an active part, so keep up with your exercises and take care of yourself. Eating well, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep can all help too.  

Routinely you’ll be able to return to your normal activities after 6 weeks. 

But remember, a knee replacement is a major operation. It may take up to six months for you to feel you’ve fully recovered. 

To find out more about knee replacements with BMI Healthcare, get in touch today