Can Physical Therapy Help Me Avoid Knee Replacement Surgery?

Can Physical Therapy Help Me Avoid Knee Replacement Surgery?

You’ve been to the doctor about your knee pain. You’re not alone. Almost half of adults develop osteoarthritis of the knee during a lifetime. Your pain may be a result of normal wear and tear or the aftereffects of a traumatic accident. Whatever the reason, you’re looking for answers and would rather avoid painful knee replacement. 

Conservative treatment with physical therapy or knee replacement? 

Our board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Michael Shults, with Coastal Empire Orthopedics, treats many patients with knee pain. Dr. Shults examines your knee as you perform physical tests and reads the results of imaging tests to determine whether it’s time for a knee replacement. 

If you’re bone-on-bone and the cartilage has been completely worn down, Dr. Shults will likely tell you that a knee replacement is the best option to ease your discomfort. On the other hand, Dr. Shults may tell you that conservative treatment is an option well worth trying before considering knee replacement surgery. 

The role of physical therapy in relieving knee pain 

Physical therapy is the gold standard in conservative treatment for knee pain, including arthritis, cartilage injuries, ligament injuries, and tendonitis. 

Researchers have found that physical therapy and regular exercise approved by your orthopedist help relieve knee pain and can help you postpone or cancel knee replacement surgery.

Your therapist develops a treatment plan to help relieve your knee pain 

If you may benefit from conservative treatment, Dr. Shults provides you with a referral for physical therapy for your knee pain. The first appointment is an evaluation. 

Your therapist asks you to perform physical movements to examine your mobility and range of motion. They can identify any gait problems that may predispose you to knee pain. The exam helps your therapist understand the current limits of your mobility. Your expert therapist then develops a program that helps you regain your highest level of knee function and joint strength. 

Following your physical therapy program as designed reduces pain and stiffness 

Your physical therapy starts with gentle massage, stretches, and joint mobilization, in which your therapist moves your leg in certain ways to stretch your ligaments in ways you can’t. It progresses as your therapist has you do exercises that strengthen the muscles around your knee joint. 

Strong muscles help support your knee joint and thus help relieve your symptoms. Your quadriceps in your thighs and your hamstrings in the back of your legs help support your knee joint. Strong quadriceps muscles help absorb the shock every time you take a step. That means less force is placed on your knee joint. 

You’ll do simple exercises at first while lying down, such as just contracting your quadricep muscles. You’ll gradually move to exercises that continue to build strength, including leg lifts, curls, and other physical moves that build muscle. You’ll also do exercises that strengthen the muscles in your buttocks (gluteal muscles) and pelvis (hip flexors). 

You’ll likely be in physical therapy two or three times per week for a few weeks and then taper down to one or two times per week. The key to pain relief is following the program as your therapist designed. 

You’ll do much of the work of your physical therapy program at home. Your therapist provides written instructions on how many repetitions of each exercise to do and how many times per day you should do the exercises. If you follow the program as designed, your reward will be reduced pain and stiffness. Aren’t those your goals? 

Call Coastal Empire Orthopedics or book an appointment online today for relief from your knee pain. 



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