Wondering what to do about your painful knees or hips? While joint replacement surgery has become an increasingly popular option, nonsurgical options should always be tried first. It is only after such a treatment plan fails should surgery be considered. Because hips and knees are weight bearing joints, weight loss is usually one of the first recommendations for patients who want to avoid surgery, physical therapy closely follows.
What Causes Joint Pain?
Joint pain is often a sign of osteoarthritis, which may be caused by aging, injuries, heredity and/or obesity. This type of arthritis occurs when the articular cartilage in your joints wears away. Articular cartilage is the smooth, glossy tissue lining the ends of the bone that cushions impact and allows the joint to move smoothly.
As Harvard Health explains, strengthening muscles and gaining flexibility can postpone joint replacement surgery. Along those same lines, a lifetime of muscle strengthening around the joint and a focus on improving flexibility with the help of a professional, could serve as a great preventative measure. Building strength around the muscles that support the knee (quadriceps and hamstrings) and the hip (glutes, buttocks, flexors), are key to absorbing and balancing high-impact movement. For example, a runner that has weaker muscles surrounding her knee joint, may be putting herself on the fast track to knee joint degradation and damage.
How Physical Therapy Helps Eliminate Joint Pain
A professional physical therapist will build a custom workout plan that targets the weak muscles that may be putting your joints at risk. If you’re already in deep with joint pain, damage or immobility, working with a physical therapist is less preventative, but even more critical. A good PT will keep you functioning at your highest level possible, prep you for surgery (if it’s recommended), and will speed-up your recovery.
What Happens If I Still Need Surgery?
In the event that surgery becomes recommended, your physical therapist can work with you to increase the strength and mobility of the surrounding muscles before the surgery actually takes place. This will help speed up your recovery time and, in many cases, lessen the pain you experience.
The specific physical therapy requirements after knee surgery will vary depending on the type and severity of the injury, the type of surgery, and your physical health. Although every patient’s regimen is different, the goals of physical therapy are generally the same:
- Enhance the healing process
- Improving joint mobility and range of motion
- Strengthening muscles
- Improving balance
- Recovering safely to prevent re-injury
Physical therapy plays an essential part in helping your body to recovery quickly, safely, and correctly. Visits to the clinic typically start between 2 and 4 weeks after your surgery and, while they can be hard work, it will quickly help you to start feeling more like yourself again.
If you are dealing with knee or hip pain and would like help preventing, preparing for, or recovering from surgery, then it’s time to make an appointment with Haymarket PT. Our excellent and experienced staff will be happy to talk with you about options available and get you set up for an appointment.