Did you hurt your knee or have surgery? Or is it achy and stiff because of arthritis? Either way, you might feel like the last thing you should do is get on your feet and move your joint around. But often physical therapy (PT) is what your doctor suggests to get your strength back and put you on the road to recovery.
PT, or rehab as some people call it, can ease your muscle and joint pain. You'll work with a physical therapist, a licensed professional who uses a variety of methods to help strengthen your muscles and make your body feel and move better.
Some things you might need are:
If you do have an operation, your doctor will likely suggest at least a few weeks of therapy afterward to help you recover. They might recommend a specific physical therapy office, or you can find one near you by checking the American Physical Therapy Association’s website.
What Happens at the First Session?
You'll work one on one with your physical therapist to come up with your treatment plan. They'll discuss ways to rebuild the strength and movement in your leg and knee, so you can feel better and go back to doing the things you love to do.
At your first visit, your therapist will look at your leg and see how well your knee bends, straightens, and moves. They'll also see if:
After the First VisitYou'll start to work on making your leg muscles stronger, which takes some of the stress off your knee and cut your pain. Your therapist will give you exercises to do at home and show you how to practice them safely.
Strength training exercises are a key part of the PT workout. For instance, you may need to do some of these moves:
Tell your therapist if something hurts. You might have a little discomfort, but stop if you feel a lot of pain.
You could feel stiff or sore after your therapy, so plan ahead for some time to rest. Ask your doctor or therapist how to get relief from this achiness.
Your physical therapist may also use electricity to help improve your leg muscle strength and knee movement. It's a method called "TENS," short for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
They'll put sticky patches called electrodes on the front of the thigh above your knee. A wire connects each one to the TENS machine. They turn it on, and when they do, tiny electrical signals tingle the nerves in your muscle. This boosts the flow of your blood and helps ease pain.
How Long Will It Take for My Knee to Get Better?
Your doctor or physical therapist will tell you how often you need to go to therapy. It might be several times a week for 6 weeks or longer. The amount depends on how much your knee hurts and whether or not you had surgery.
Your therapist will stay in touch with your doctor and discuss your progress. Together, the three of you can decide when you feel ready to scale back on sessions.