What to Expect After Knee & Hip Joint Replacement Surgery

May 22, 2024

If you’re considering joint replacement surgery for your knee or hip or have one scheduled, you’re on the path to a life with less pain and greater mobility. This exciting shift opens a world of possibilities but also requires careful planning to ensure a successful recovery to get back to doing what you love.

joint replacement

Skylar Vitiello, a licensed physical therapist at Orlin & Cohen, walks you through what joint replacement rehabilitation includes – from when to consider a knee or hip replacement to in-home care and outpatient physical therapy – providing a clear roadmap of what to expect.

When to Consider a Joint Replacement

Joint replacement surgery is a solution for individuals suffering from chronic joint pain, stiffness, and limited mobility due to conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or injury-related damage. Patients who receive a joint replacement will participate in a phased approach to physical therapy to regain the joint’s range of motion, strength, and stability.

While Orlin & Cohen’s specialists consider a conservative approach first, sometimes surgical intervention with a total knee or hip replacement is necessary and can be a viable solution. In fact, nearly 95% of total hip replacements and 85% of knee replacements are considered effective, and much of that success stems from a comprehensive rehabilitation plan.

Phases of Physical Therapy for Knee & Hip Replacements

Your recovery begins the moment your surgery is completed. Prioritizing pain management and supporting the body’s natural healing mechanisms are top priorities. Physical therapy comes into play almost immediately because it’s critical to reducing complications, such as poor circulation and muscle atrophy, keeping you on the fastest track to recovery.

Phase 1: Immediate postsurgical care

Within the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery, you will begin physical therapy. This initial phase involves gentle movements to keep your new joint moving and prevent tightness. Activities like ankle pumps, leg lifts, and some supported walking will help you set the foundations for regaining mobility and joint function.

Phase 2: In-home care physical therapy

After being discharged from the hospital, you will transition to in-home care physical therapy. This phase typically lasts about two weeks and involves a physical therapist visiting your home to continue your rehabilitation. Together, you’ll work on reducing any lingering pain and getting back your strength and flexibility.

In-home care allows for personalized attention, as the physical therapist can tailor the program to your specific needs and progress. Techniques may include manual therapy, such as massage and joint mobilization, therapeutic exercises, and heat and ice therapy treatments.

Phase 3: Outpatient Physical Therapy

Once you complete in-home care, the next step is outpatient physical therapy (PT). This stage involves visiting a physical therapist two to three times per week, where the intensity and variety of exercises gradually increase based on your recovery progress. The effort shifts to more rigorous activities designed to restore full function to the joint and help you return to your presurgery activity levels.

These sessions will leverage various equipment and therapies to rebuild strength, improve endurance, and work toward restoring full functionality and mobility of the impacted joint. You will also receive a customized home exercise program to perform between appointments, which is essential to continuing and advancing your recovery.

Learn more about PT and how you can get the most out of your sessions.

Long-term recovery

What’s the endgame? It’s getting you back to your highest level of activity and independence. Recovery times vary, often stretching over several months. Dedication to both in-session and at-home exercises plays a pivotal role in improving your recovery time with long-lasting results.

Managing Expectations and Embracing Support

Recovering from any joint replacement surgery is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes patience, determination, and positivity. Knowing what to expect and gearing up for the ebb and flow of the healing process makes all the difference.

Orlin & Cohen’s specialists are ready to ensure you have the support needed to bounce back into an active, pain-free life confidently. From our fellowship-trained joint replacement surgeons to our team of experienced and compassionate physical therapists, our experience and expertise can mean a better outcome for you.

See if joint replacement surgery or another option is right for you. Request a same-day or next-day appointment.