Is a Knee Replacement For You?

By Misty Woltman PT, DPT at Brookestone Meadows

If you are in the market for a knee replacement, there is some homework you should do.

As a Physical Therapist, I have seen first hand the benefits of therapy prior to surgery. I always encourage my patients who are planning on having a knee replacement to do exercises prior to their surgery. Patients that have had therapy before surgery typically regain strength and range of motion much faster than those who have not had therapy previously. Another benefit to having therapy prior to surgery is that patients are familiar with all of the exercises they perform after surgery. Patients often are more likely to perform these exercises more faithfully following surgery due to their familiarity and because they have seen the benefits of them prior to surgery.

Individuals who need a knee replacement often are in a significant amount of pain which is limiting their daily activities and mobility. These limitations cause the individual to become weaker and their knee joint to become stiff (decreasing range of motion). Most of the exercises are done in a seated position or lying down which often eliminates the most painful weight bearing position. The exercises improve both strength and flexibility. Many of the exercises focus on the quadriceps muscle group which is significantly weakened following surgery.

An alumnus of Brookestone Meadows, Sandy Matthys, knows just how beneficial therapy prior to surgery can be. Sandy has had two stays at Brookestone Meadows, both following knee replacements. During Sandy’s second stay she talked with me about how much she felt therapy before her second knee replacement helped her: “PT before surgery cuts rehab time in half.” Sandy went to out-patient Physical Therapy one to three times a week prior to her surgery and did the exercises daily at home. Her exercise program included all of the exercises we do following surgery as well as some biking. Sandy was excited when the day following surgery she was able to perform a straight leg raise (SLR) without assistance. Most patients typically cannot complete a SLR unassisted 3-4 days following surgery and sometimes up to 1-2 weeks post-op. Sandy arrived on her second stay and her knee motion was 5-96 degrees. On her first stay when she had not done any therapy prior to surgery her motion was 10-80 degrees. The first number relates to how straight (extension) her knee can be and we want this number to get to 0. The second number relates to how far she can bend (flexion) her knee. Both her extension and flexion were much better on her second replacement.

If you are considering a knee replacement do not be afraid to ask your primary physician or your orthopedic physician for therapy prior to your surgery. You may only need one or two visits to learn the exercises and then you can complete them on your own at home.

From many of my patients’ experiences it is well worth the effort to help facilitate a great outcome from your surgery.

Sandy feels the same stating “PT before surgery is a BARGAIN.”

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