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After Knee Replacement Surgery: What to Expect from Physical Therapy and Recovery Timeline

Updated: Aug 26, 2022



Knee replacement is one of the most common orthopedic surgeries performed today. Because of this, we have a lot of data and expertise that has been gained from treatment of these surgeries. Most times if you need a knee replacement you have had joint pain for some time. Likely you have been limited with your ability to climb stairs, walking, and squat down. Getting a knee total joint replacement can make a major change to these symptoms and drastically improve your abilities. In order to maximize the benefit of your surgery, all patients should go through a physical therapy program to help them recover. This can be an intimidating process, but it is important to stick with it so that you can return to your normal activities as soon as possible. If this is your first knee replacement it will be especially unfamiliar. In this blog post, we will discuss what you can expect from physical therapy for knee replacement and how you can make the most of your recovery!

Most patients will start physical therapy the day after getting home from surgery. The first few days will be focused on helping you get get moving in a gentle way. This helps you to avoid potential problems like blood clots, loss of range of motion, and muscle atrophy. You will likely do some exercises to improve your range of motion and strengthen the muscles around your new joint. This will include light exercises such as muscle activation, isometrics, and light ROM and biking.



As you progress, your physical therapist will help you to gradually increase your activity level. This may include using resistance bands and weights, as well as working on balance and coordination. The goal is to get you back to your normal activities as soon as possible! Your physical therapist will help select the right level of activity and resistance to keep you safe but also to help progress as quickly and effectively as possible.


Once you are closer to full range of motion and strength it's time to start working back into your normal activities. Say you enjoy hiking, we will work to progressively increase hiking like activity in clinic and help guide you back onto the trails. If you are a golfer we will help work you through golf specific movements in order to get you back on the course as soon as possible.

Another key area is balance and proprioception. After knee replacement you lose some of the ability to sense position of the leg as you stand on it. This is built back by performing specific exercises where you remove one of the three systems of balance systematically. This allows you to train each system and improve the strength of all systems so you are not over reliant on just one balance system.


The biggest key for knee replacement physical therapy is that each physical therapy program is customized to your specific abilities and activities. Your therapist takes into account your goals and will work to build a program with those at the forefront.


Most people are back to normal activity by 6 months though healing is still occurring up to 18 months after your knee replacement has been done.

If you are going to be getting a total knee replacement surgery, here are some of our top exercises to do before surgery to maximize recovery.

  • Stationary bike

  • Leg press (just to tolerance)

  • Knee flexion and extension stretching

  • Glute strengthening

  • Core (transversus abdominus) training

  • Balance training

If you are interested in maximizing your recovery from your knee replacement surgery go ahead and give us a call at (425)629-9997 or click below to request an appointment online.



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