One hundred years ago, you were lucky to live till age 50. With the average Australian now living well into their 80s, the likelihood of seniors needing total knee replacement surgery is increasing.
This article will take you through some of the solutions available to seniors considering a total knee replacement (TKR).
What is a total knee replacement?
Simply put, total knee replacement surgery replaces the bony surfaces of the knee joint that have become damaged with artificial ones. A TKR aims to manage pain, swelling and disability to allow for a better quality of life.
It is usually advised to consider physiotherapy options first before considering a TKR.
TKRs are usually considered the next best option after all other pain management and physical therapies have been exhausted.
The Total Knee Replacement Journey
Preparation and “prehab”
For planned TKRs, the rehabilitation process starts before the surgery has even taken place (“prehab”).
Total knee replacement candidates begin a progressive resistance training program with stretches and exercises, to take the joint through its desired ‘range of motion’ (this refers to how far you can move or stretch a part of your body, such as a joint or a muscle).
This prehab period usually lasts for 4-6 weeks. Depending on the individual’s ability to weight-bear, this period includes exercises like pool workouts, elliptical or recumbent bike exercises, strength training, and stretches.
Research (see references below*) has shown that pre-operative exercises reduce the need for post-operative care and reduce the length of stay in hospital. The additional benefits of engaging in prehab are improved post-operative functional performance and greater muscle strength.
For a more detailed look at the prehab process, see our Knee Replacement Preparation recommendations here.
Recovery and rehab
Immediately after the total knee replacement, the recovery process starts. Depending on your surgeon, you may be placed on a machine (‘CPM machine’) that helps you move your knee with cryotherapy (ice therapy) to manage pain and swelling associated with the operation.
The recovery period of care aims to help the muscles around your new joint improve in strength and flexibility. Exercises in this stage are similar to prehab exercises, but may also include a variety of other functional exercises, like steps ups and balance retraining exercises.
The first three months after a TKR are important and it is during this period that the greatest improvements can be made. Therefore, having some form of physical therapy is strongly advised.
For a more detailed look at the rehab process, see our Knee Replacement Recovery recommendations here.
How TPC physiotherapists can help
Whether you are contemplating a TKR, have had one already or if you are having difficulty with your ‘new’ knee, a physiotherapy consultation can walk you through the next best steps.
An initial assessment with a TPC physio can help you determine what’s the best course of action for you. We have physiotherapists who can visit you in your home to help you work out a plan of action and walk you through the TKR process at any stage.
Interested in knowing more?
Please call on 1300 797 793 or contact our friendly physio team here today.
Rooks, D. et al. (2006). Effect of Preoperative Exercise on Measures of Functional Status in Men and Women Undergoing Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty. Arthritis & Rheumatism. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2SKAam0
Skoffer, B. et al. (2016). Efficacy of Preoperative Progressive Resistance Training on Postoperative Outcomes in Patients Undergoing Total Knee Arthroplasty. Arthritis Care & Research. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2LbaESL
News Now Staff. (2014). Preoperative Physical Therapy Results in ‘Significant’ Reduction in Postoperative Care Use for Patients Undergoing Hip or Knee Replacement. PT in Motion. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2WCB3hB
Sharma, R. et al. (2019). Does Rehabilitation before Total Knee Arthroplasty Benefit Postoperative Recovery? A Systematic Review. Indian Journal of Orthopaedics. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2WGgRLs