The Importance of Physical Therapy After Joint Replacement Surgery

When you decide to have joint replacement surgery, you dream of putting your pain and movement limitations behind you and returning to an active lifestyle. You can count on reaching that goal — but only with the help of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Andrew B. Richardson, MD, is a skilled surgeon who successfully replaces your damaged joint with a prosthetic joint, but being able to use your new joint depends on the effort you put into following a physical therapy regimen. Whether you need a knee replacement or a hip replacement, physical therapy puts you on the fast track to eliminating pain and regaining mobility.

Physical therapy accelerates your recovery

The exercises and activities that make up your physical therapy regimen are designed to meet your unique goals and health care needs. Despite individualized care, everyone gains the same health benefits.

Physical therapy is the key to:

Focusing on this list of the benefits can help you stay motivated in the early days of rehabilitation as you become accustomed to your new joint and work through the post-surgery pain.

You have a window of time immediately after your surgery in which you can restore the range of motion in your new joint. If you don’t move and engage in physical therapy, however, scar tissue develops that restricts movement and your muscles weaken. The function of your new joint depends on strengthening the surrounding muscles.

Guide to physical therapy after joint replacement surgery

Each patient is different, and the physical therapy routine you follow might differ from someone else’s rehabilitation program, but we can give you a summary of the basic activities you can expect.

Physical therapy in the hospital

Your physical therapy begins immediately after surgery, typically within several hours of your surgical procedure. Getting the joint moving after surgery is important to start getting the blood flowing, muscles moving to prevent scar tissue formation and to prevent blood clots.  Some patients are nervous about starting therapy immediately, however, you do not need to do anything excessive, but it is important to start the recovery process as soon as possible to ensure a good result.

Your physical therapist begins by helping you walk and teaching you how to use your crutches or walker. You learn a few gentle range-of-motion and strengthening exercises you can perform in bed or while sitting in a chair.

In addition to preventing muscle atrophy, these exercises keep your blood flowing at a normal pace, which prevents blood clots and promotes healing.

Immediately after surgery,  your physical therapist will teach you the movements you should avoid to protect your new joint while your body heals and strengthens.

Physical therapy after your discharge

When you are discharged home, your physical therapy continues with progressive exercises to improve your strength, range of motion, gait, and balance.  When you get home, continue the home exercises taught to you prior to discharge.  Outpatient physical therapy will typically start within the first few days following surgery.

Outpatient sessions continue to build on your progress. You participate in range-of-motion, stretching, strengthening, and weight-bearing exercises that gradually place more demands on your body.

We also start to incorporate activity-specific rehabilitation, adding exercises that restore the strength and skills you need to return to work or get back to sports.

If you’re diligent about following your exercise routine, you can be ready to return to your normal daily life with only a few limitations on high-impact activities when your physical therapy sessions end.

If you struggle with ongoing knee or hip pain, you have questions about joint replacement surgery, or you need to schedule physical therapy, call Andrew B. Richardson, MD, or use our online booking feature to connect with the office location that’s convenient to you.

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