Physiotherapists are uniquely positioned to get you moving again, safely, after hip and knee replacements. We’re also the best professionals to prepare you for surgery (“pre-habilitation”) or to help you try to prevent surgery in the first place.
Not sure what to expect when you start physiotherapy? Every patient/client’s treatment is unique, but this blog post summarizes what generally happens in a course of physiotherapy treatment.
- Comprehensive Assessment
After surgery, the role of a physiotherapist is to do a thorough assessment of the patient’s condition. This helps us understand the challenges and limitations that may have arisen from your surgery.
For post-op hip replacements, the physiotherapist will look at how far you can bend your hip (your “range of motion”), how strong your hip muscles are, and how well you are walking (your “gait pattern”). This is to help us understand what is helping you move, and what is restricting your movement.
For knee replacements, your physiotherapist will focus on how much your knee can bend and straighten (knee “range of motion”), how strong the muscles are around your knee, and how stable your knee is (“joint stability”).
The main purpose of this assessment is to design an individualized treatment plan tailored to your unique needs.
- Personalized Treatment Plan
Based on the assessment, physiotherapists create a personalized treatment plan for each patient. This plan is tailored to you and you only, ensuring the exercises and interventions are both safe and effective. The treatment plan will usually include a combination of exercises, manual therapy, and pain management techniques, to get you to your goal.
- Pain Management
Post-op pain is common after hip and knee replacements. While your doctor or surgeon may have prescribed you medication for the pain, the physiotherapist’s role is to complement that with drug-free pain relief techniques. This could include prescribing certain types of movements to reduce pain, ice, heat therapy, electrotherapy (such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, aka TENS), and therapeutic ultrasound.
By managing their pain effectively, patients can focus on their exercises and rehabilitation without unnecessary discomfort and suffering.
- Range of Motion and Flexibility Exercises
Physiotherapists design exercises to improve how you move, and how far your joint can bend or straighten after surgery. For post-op hip replacements, targeted exercises aim to increase hip flexibility and promote proper hip alignment. For knee replacements, exercises usually focus on knee bending and straightening.
- Strengthening Exercises
Strengthening exercises are crucial for rebuilding muscle strength around the replaced joint. Muscles surrounding the hip and knee support the hip and knee, and with more support, you tend to feel less pain.
As part of your treatment plan, physiotherapists design exercises that gradually challenge the muscles without straining the newly replaced joint. For post-op hip replacements, strengthening exercises may target the glutes, quadriceps, and hip abductors, while knee replacements may focus on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles.
- Gait Training and Balance Improvement
Physiotherapists assist patients in relearning how to walk correctly after hip and knee replacements. “Gait” (walking and running) training is essential to promote a balanced, stable, and confident walking pattern.
Patients may practice walking with assistance from crutches or walking aids initially, gradually transitioning to unaided walking as their strength and stability improve. The large majority of post-op joint replacement patients focus on walking exclusively. However, higher performing patients may choose to work on running, with the guidance of their physiotherapist and doctor.
- Proprioception and Coordination Enhancement
Proprioception refers to knowing and sensing where your body part is without looking at it. It’s closely related to how well you can balance. Proprioception is frequently affected by surgery, since your proprioceptive sensors are located in your joints.
In your treatment plan, your physiotherapist will likely integrate exercises that focus on proprioception and coordination.
These exercises are particularly vital for patients who may have experienced disruptions in their vestibular function after surgery.
Improved proprioception aids in daily activities and reduces the risk of falls.
- Progress Monitoring and Adjustment
Throughout the rehabilitation journey, physiotherapists continuously monitor the patient’s progress. That means your treatment will always be progressing as time goes on, until you hit your goal.
Your physiotherapist will regularly assess your mobility, strength, and overall improvement. This could happen quickly in group classes, or more extensive in your one-on-one treatment sessions with your physiotherapist.
- Educating Patients on Home Exercise Programs
In addition to supervised sessions, physiotherapists educate patients on home exercise programs tailored to their condition. These exercises empower patients to take an active role in their recovery and ensure that they continue to make progress between their one-on-one physiotherapy sessions, and/or their group classes.
Physiotherapists play an indispensable role in the recovery process of individuals undergoing post-op hip and knee replacements. Their expertise in assessment, personalized treatment planning, pain management, and targeted exercises significantly contribute to patients’ overall rehabilitation journey.
By guiding patients through walking training, balance training,, and proprioception exercises, physiotherapists empower people to regain their mobility, confidence, and independence. By monitoring and adjusting patients’ treatment plans, physiotherapists ensure patients receive the most appropriate care throughout their recovery.
Ultimately, the compassionate and expert care provided by physiotherapists plays a vital role in helping post-op hip and knee replacement patients reclaim their lives and achieve their physical fitness goals.