TKA Recovery

By Emily Barton, PT, DPT

Total Knee Arthroplasty Recovery 

TKA Recovery can be worrisome for some. However, by better understanding TKA Recovery one can ease such worries and have a great outcome after surgery.

TKA Recovery from Knee Implant

Specifics of a Knee implant must be understood for TKA Recovery

What Is A TKA? 

A TKA, also known as a total knee arthroplasty or total knee replacement, is a procedure where  the surgeon will replace damaged cartilage and structures within the knee joint and replace  them with artificial material to improve alignment and overall function. This is typically a procedure with individuals between ages 50 and 80 years old with complaints of pain and  limitations in daily activities due to severe arthritis or traumatic injury. 

How Long Does TKA Recovery Take? 

Post-op (1-3 days):

Hospital stay varies depending on patient and surgeon, some patients will leave the hospital the same day, others might be in the hospital for a few more to monitor their recovery. Standing and walking starts immediately after surgery! A physical therapist will assist you with walking and how to use a walker or another assistive device such as a cane or crutches. An assistive device is imperative until your walk is steadier, usually a couple weeks. 

Home PT (2 weeks)

Following the hospital, you may go home or to another rehab facility where a therapist will work with you on building your leg strength and performing household activities safely. 

Outpatient PT (6-12 weeks)

During this phase of your recovery, your PT will customize a treatment plan that maximizes the healing process and gets you back to activities you enjoyed before the surgery! 

Following PT (3-6 months)

It can take 6 months to a year for your knee to fully gain the strength and endurance that your knee had prior to surgery. Movements that may remain difficult include high impact activities (running, jumping, etc.) and weight through the knee joint such as kneeling. 

TKA Recovery Pain And Stiffness

Post-operative pain varies from patient to patient, even knee to knee on the same patient!  Typically, post-operative pain will resolve by week 6. It is anticipated that stiffness in the knee  joint will decrease gradually and resolve by three months. Stiffness may still be experienced with  prolonged positions and end range knee motions such as bending or straightening the knee.  

Tips and tricks to manage post- op pain: 

  • Movement– motion is lotion so move, move, move! It is beneficial for all joints in your body to move frequently, even the artificial ones. Taking “micro-breaks” during prolonged seated or standing tasks can decrease feelings of stiffness. 
  • Ice– nature’s analgesic, ice has been found to promote pain relief, reduce muscle spasms, and reduce swelling.  
  • Stretching– the knee acts as an attachment point for most of the muscles of the thigh and lower leg, performing gentle stretching tasks can help to decrease stiffness at the knee joint. 

TKA Recovery And Goals Of Physical Therapy 

Knee range of motion:

Our knee is required to bend and extend to complete daily tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, sitting in a chair, or getting out of a car or bathtub. A typical knee can bend 135 degrees and extend completely straight. It is not an expectation for your knee to regain 100% of the bending motion due to the components within the artificial joint. Your PT will work with you immediately to maximize the motion in your new joint to prevent future complications. Most knee bending activities can occur with 120 degrees of knee bending, while knee extension activities such as standing and walking require a completely straight knee! 

Leg strengthening:

As mentioned before, the knee is an attachment point for some very important muscles that keep up strong and mobile! Following any surgery, muscles will be weaker and require a specialized strengthening program designed by your therapist to regain any noticeable loss. This helps to prevent compensatory strategies and decreases likelihood of muscle imbalances and secondary complications or conditions that could lead to pain or dysfunction down the road. 

Ambulation and balance training:

A major goal for your therapist will be to wean you to the least restrictive assistive device while maintaining safe parameters. A fall onto your new knee can lead to additional damage and potentially another surgery. Minimizing obstacles in the way of your walking path and learning safe walking strategies can help to prevent future falls! 

Technology Is Changing Knee Replacement and TKA Recovery

Technology is transforming the way joint replacement surgeries are performed. With technology comes the evolution of medical procedures such as MAKO Robotic Joint Replacement Surgery. JOI prides itself in being on the cutting edge of such medical procedures. Learn more about it HERE!

Related Articles: Total Hip Replacement FAQ and Arthritis Overview. 

To schedule for physical therapy after a TKA, please call 904-858-7045. 

To make an appointment with a JOI Knee Orthopedic Specialist today call (904) 564-2000. You can also click on the book an appointment button below!

By: Emily Barton, PT 

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