After your knee replacement, you might think your knee will work just fine. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that straightening the knee after surgery is not as simple as they originally thought. Along with loss of strength, reduced extension is one of the most common complaints following knee replacement. Full motion of the knee can take three to six months to regain after surgery.
A customized physical therapy program will address residual stiffness by combining stretching, exercise and a steady, safe return to your daily activities. For some people, the challenge to get the knee extended properly after surgery can result from poor pain control,making it hard to move the knee; stiffness before surgery,which makes it more likely there will be stiffness afterward; heavy scarring because some people form scar tissue more readily than others; a poorly positioned replacement implant;and surgical complications,such as an infection.
Treatment depends on the cause of your stiffness. We can design a rehabilitation program that focuses on proper knee extension. In some cases the use of a dynasplint is a necessary adjunct to improve knee extension. More invasive surgical approaches involve breaking up scar tissue. However, if you start physical therapy early, it is unlikely this will be necessary.
Your personalized program will begin immediately after your surgery with simple movements such as knee extension and quadriceps exercises. Initial exercises will include
- isometric exercises to help improve circulation
- ankle pumps to strengthen calf muscles
- leg raises for strong leg and thigh muscles
- knee bending and straightening exercises to enhance range of motion
After surgery, you will begin physical therapy. This will provide you with the best chance of treating stiffness in your knee. You will regain proper extension in your knee and enjoy all your favorite physical activities once again.