Knee replacement or Arthroplasty as its known in our medical world, sounds like a big deal. But the truth is that recent techniques have made the whole process easier and more comfortable for patients. Still, it’s a surgical procedure, so it will require a potential patient to be conscious of the preparation required and to have a realization of the rehabilitation required for everything to go smoothly.
Even so, there are patients who report stiffness after a knee replacement surgery and would not feel comfortable with the results of the intervention. Another major consideration is the cost of a Knee replacement if having private treatment.
In this article, you will understand what to expect of a knee replacement surgery, what to do afterward to regain your mobility, and how to solve a knee that still feels stiff months after surgery.
Knee replacement rehabilitation (Arthroplasty)
Even with modern techniques such as minimally invasive total knee replacement, undergoing this type of surgery needs considerable time to recover and would also require rehabilitation to regain your mobility. After surgery, most patients would think they will need to immobilize the articulation to shield the injury and improve surgery outcomes, but it is all the contrary. If you have not started physical therapy or failed to comply with the exercises you were assigned, this is a likely cause of stiffness after a knee replacement surgery. There is also a condition known as “Water on the Knee” which can make you feel similarly uncomfortable.
In the rehabilitation program, you will be asked to perform a series of progressive exercises. From day one, even still lying in your bed after surgery, you will start performing slight raises of your legs, quadriceps tightening for a few seconds, and exercises with your ankles. When you’re able to sit, there are a series of knee bends you will perform to slightly rotate your knee and regain your mobility in this area.
Walking is recommended as soon as possible. At first, you will need a walker or any other support to aid your walk. After a while, you should be able to walk freely and be able to move forward and doing some stair climbing and descending. Going down the stairs will be the last stage of your rehabilitation, and you will notice it is especially difficult after a knee replacement.
Even after you can walk and go up and down the stairs, there are certain resistance exercises to do with your knees, and it is up to your physical therapist to know whether or not you need them. In any case, don’t feel discouraged if you find that you can’t perform well enough in some simple movements. It is not necessarily because your surgery went wrong. It happens to all patients, and physical therapy is made to help you progressively solve stiffness problems.
What if my knee replacement still feels “stiff” after a few weeks or months?
In this article, we have described stiffness as a normal part of the rehabilitation after a knee replacement surgery. It should be progressively solved with the aid of physical therapy as long as you comply with the treatment and follow the instructions of your physician. However, some patients would still feel stiffness, even months after a knee replacement surgery. Is this normal?
First off, we need to know that knee replacement as well as Hip replacement surgery won’t likely increase your range of movement if you had stiffness before surgery, especially if you sustained this movement limitation and delayed your surgery for too long.
Another common cause of stiffness is not completing your physiotherapy the way you’re supposed to, and you might need to reschedule your appointments with your physical therapist and start all over again. Another cause can be infection or malposition of your new joint, and these should be assessed by your doctor to know what is happening to you.
In some cases, scar tissue forms after surgery and doctors would perform a series of exercises under anesthesia to break this excess tissue that’s compromising your movement.
In any case, if you experience stiffness 12 weeks after your knee replacement surgery, it is the perfect timing to ask your doctor. You might need a few imaging studies, and it will be better to search for a skilled radiologist with experience in musculoskeletal imaging because this type of diagnosis might be challenging sometimes.
Roos, E. M. (2003). Effectiveness and practice variation of rehabilitation after joint replacement. Current opinion in rheumatology, 15(2), 160-162.
Noyes, F. R. (2016). Noyes’ knee disorders: surgery, rehabilitation, clinical outcomes. Elsevier Health Sciences.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2019). Total Knee Replacement Exercise Guide – Retrieved from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/recovery/total-knee-replacement-exercise-guide/