Physical Therapy: What to Expect Following Joint Replacement Surgery
Surgery to replace a joint, like a hip, knee or shoulder, can be scary – especially when you don’t know what to expect afterwards. Will recovery be painful? How long will it take to heal? What will physical therapy be like? Will rehab be difficult?
Below are answers to frequently asked questions regarding outpatient physical therapy following a joint replacement:
What will happen on my first day of physical therapy?
On your first day of physical therapy, your therapist will conduct an initial evaluation to assess range of motion and strength. He or she also will inspect the incisional site. Your therapist may remove staples (if indicated by doctor’s orders) and change the dressing (depending on what post-op day it is).
In addition, your therapist will review exercises and give you a home exercise program, as appropriate. It is very important that you follow through with your home exercise program, because it will improve your recovery time and outcome.
If you experience post-surgical pain and discomfort, your therapist will discuss your pain management options to help increase your comfort level.
How quickly will I progress through therapy?
Your therapist will progress you based on your tolerance – focusing on range of motion, strengthening, and (if you had a knee or hip replacement) gait training. The first few weeks after your surgery are very crucial, so it is important to push yourself within your limits to get the maximum benefit for your range of motion.
During treatment, your therapist will work with you on improving your gait, or manner of walking. Gait training will involve transitioning from a walker to a cane to possibly walking without an assistive device, as well as the safe use of steps.
How can I continue to make progress after I am discharged from physical therapy?
After discharge from physical therapy, joint replacement patients should consider joining a fitness program or a gym to maintain their function and continue to gain strength.
How long will I be in physical therapy?
The length of outpatient rehab will depend on the type of surgery (e.g. bi-lateral versus one knee). Remember, your progress is your own. Do not compare yourself with others, as each patient and experience is unique.
How long will it take to fully recover?
Full recovery usually can be achieved in six months to a year. Your recovery will vary depending on the severity of your condition prior to surgery, as well as your condition/fitness level. It is very common to experience “stiffness” for up to a year.
Work hard in physical therapy and your efforts will be rewarded with improved quality of life!
For more information on outpatient physical therapy following joint replacement, call 1-888-44-REHAB (73422) or contact us online today.