Getting Back to Normal: Laura Discusses Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is important for rehabilitation after most orthopedic surgeries, but it’s arguably just as important as the surgery itself in my case. I knew going into the surgery that I would have to be prepared to really work hard to rehabilitate my knee and that the recovery was going to be a long process.

I met first with my physical therapist (PT) at 10 days post-op. Up to that point, I had been mostly lying in bed using the CPM (continuous passive motion) machine. I was using it constantly to move my leg from 0-30 degrees, and then six times a day, I used it to bend my knee to 90 degrees and hold it for 10 minutes. My PT first evaluated my range of motion (ROM); he wanted to see how far I could straighten my leg (extension) and how far I could bend it (flexion). That first day, I clearly had limited ROM, but that wasn’t surprising or of particular concern because I hadn’t started therapy.

The first set of exercises, and what I’ve focused on up to this point, was designed to improve my ROM. I’m doing two different sets of exercises six times a day. Really, there are stretches six times a day, and then I add in strengthening exercises three times.

  • Knee extension (prone hangs and towel stretches)
  • Knee flexion (heel slides)
  • Calf raises
  • Single leg raises (SLR)
  • Side leg raises (to help strengthen my hip muscle)

The good news so far is that the stretches seem to really do the trick. I’m able to get almost to full passive extension (based on what I can do with my other knee). Even better, my PT measured my passive flexion at 142 degrees—that’s only 8 degrees less than my other leg!

I think one thing that has definitely helped me is the work that I was able to do before the surgery. I met with a therapist a few months ago to develop a plan that I could follow at home that would strengthen the muscles in my leg. I’m hoping that I will have an easier time with strengthening those muscles now because they were used to being stressed for the last couple of months.

Slow and steady is the name of the game right now! I’m still in a leg brace locked in full extension when I’m up and about, and I will be for at least three more weeks until my next appointment with Dr. Maiers. We want to make sure that the DeNovo cartilage transplant has time to heal, so we’re going to focus on maintaining ROM and strengthening my quads for the next couple of weeks.

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