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Total Knee Replacement Rehab: What to Expect

If you are suffering from knee osteoarthritis, you may benefit from a surgical procedure called a total knee replacement (TKR). This surgery involves your doctor cutting away the damaged joint surfaces in your knee and replacing them with metal implants. A small piece of plastic is placed between the two metal implants to allow your knee joint to glide and slide normally. The goal of the surgery is to decrease pain, improve your knee's mobility, and allow you to return to normal walking with minimal or no pain.

Many patients benefit from a course of physical therapy at Capital Region PT after a total knee replacement. Most patients are well enough to begin rehab about two or three days after surgery.

Your first appointment in our PT clinic after a total knee replacement is an initial evaluation. During this appointment, you will meet your physical therapist. He or she will ask you about your condition and learn about the surgical procedure you had. Information will be taken about your previous and current level of function, and a past medical history review will occur.

Your PT will also take various tests and measures during your initial eval. Measurements may include:

  • Analysis of your gait (the way you walk)

  • Tenderness to palpation

  • Inspection of the surgical incision

  • Knee joint girth measurement

  • Measure of knee joint range of motion

  • Strength measurements

Once your PT gathers information about your impairments and functional limitations, he or she will work with you to develop a plan of care for your rehab. Goals will be set, and you may be instructed to perform a daily home exercise program.

Typical exercises prescribed after TKR may include:

  • Heel slides

  • Quad sets

  • Straight leg raises

  • Mini-squats

  • Stationary biking

Your PT will prescribe exercises that are specific to your condition. Some may feel easy, while others may be challenging. You should feel comfortable with your PT to let him or her know how your exercises are going and if they need to be altered in any way.

Your PT can also help you progress with your walking. Most patients use a wheeled walker for ambulation immediately after TKR surgery. They then progress to using one cane, and finally to using nothing at all for walking.

Most patients attend PT for about four to six weeks after total knee replacement surgery. Your rehab may be quicker or a bit longer depending on your specific condition. Your therapist should be able to give you a reasonable prognosis early on in the rehab.

At Capital Region Physical Therapy, we believe your pain is personal and your treatment should be. That's why we will work closely with you to ensure your total knee replacement rehab goes smoothly. That way, you can quickly and safely return to your previous level of activity.

Setting up your physical therapy is easy. Just call us at (518) 439-5006 to get started.



I highly recommend the therapy team at CRPT! After having both knees replaced (January, then June) I did my rehab here. It was hard, but they worked with me and answered every question I had. There were days I just didn't want to do the work, but with the support of the physical therapists here, I sucked it up and did it. Now in September I have mobility I haven't had in years. I still have exercises to do at home, but I know if I need extra help again, I can get an appointment and do what needs to be done.

I highly recommend this team, they are awesome! Thank you, Brett, Mackenzie, Sandy, and Alyssa!

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