Physical Therapy & Recovery After Knee Replacement

Physical therapy after knee replacement surgery helps you improve your range of motion (ability to straighten and bend your knee) and knee strength so you can get back to living. It’s also called post-op rehab.

You’ll work with the same physical therapist who helped you with your pre-op therapy. He or she will customize the post-op rehab program for you and guide you through it.

Our specialized physical therapy program prevents swelling and helps you recover faster after knee replacement surgery. The goals of physical therapy are to:

  • Control swelling.
  • Regain full straightening of your knee (extension).
  • Regain full bending of your knee (flexion).
  • Return to full knee strength.

We focus on restoring range of motion before strengthening your knee. Physical therapy starts while you’re in the hospital. It usually lasts about 10 months.

Your Recovery

As you improve your range of motion, you’ll have less pain and be able to function better. At one week after surgery:

  • More than 80% of our patients can bend their knees beyond 90 degrees.
  • 97% of our patients can fully straighten their knees.

By 3 months after surgery, knee function for our patients has improved from an average of 30 before surgery to 75 after surgery (out of 100).

Recovery after knee replacement surgery also includes use of special equipment to reduce swelling and follow up visits to Shelbourne Knee Center.

Follow-Up Visits After Surgery

You’ll do most of your exercises at home. But you’ll also came back to Shelbourne Knee Center for follow-up visits. During all visits, you’ll see your physical therapist. Your physical therapist will measure your progress, and if you’re ready, show you new exercises.

During some visits, you’ll also see your orthopedic surgeon.

Follow-up visits after surgery are at:

  • 1 and 2 weeks.
  • 1, 2, and 3 months.
  • 6, 9, and 12 months.

Equipment to Reduce Swelling

After surgery, you’ll wear a Cryo-Cuff® on the new knee to prevent swelling, except for when you’re doing your exercises. You’ll use the Cryo-Cuff® as long as your physical therapist thinks this will help you. K. Donald Shelbourne, MD, orthopedic surgeon and founder of Shelbourne Knee Center, invented the Cyro-Cuff.

Your leg will also be in a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine. This machine reduces swelling by elevating the knee above the heart. It gently bends and flexes your knee. Most patients use this machine for seven days.

For the first 7 days, you should lay flat on your back with the new knee elevated above your heart.

For about 2-3 weeks after surgery, you’ll wear a compression stocking.

Physical Therapy in The Hospital

While you’re in the hospital, you’ll begin your exercises. We’ll show you and your family how to:

  • Use the equipment.
  • Do the exercises.

We’ll also give you a booklet with the exercises and other instructions.

Physical Therapy at Home

When you leave the hospital, you’ll need someone to help you with meals, the Cyro-Cuff, walking, and your exercises. If you don't have someone who can stay with you at home, we can arrange a short stay in a rehab facility.

For up to 2 weeks, you’ll use a walker and/or a cane. You can begin walking on your own as soon as you’re ready.

Help Us Improve Care for Other Patients

Our current treatment for knee arthritis is based on our research. We’ve learned what works best by following patients after they finish their rehab.

We hope that you will be part of our research so we can help other patients in the future.

You can do this by taking our annual survey and and if you’ve had surgery, coming back for free follow-up visits at:

  • 2 years after your surgery.
  • 5 years after your surgery.
  • 10 years after your surgery.
  • 15 years after your surgery.
  • 20 years after your surgery.