Health Topics

How long does physical therapy after joint replacement really take?


September 4, 2015

Some joint replacement PT is “no pain, no gain”

Considering a joint replacement, but worried about the recovery? Vanderbilt physical therapist Sheila Gaffney joins us to address some common concerns.


How quickly will I be able to get back to normal activities?

Getting back to normal activities just sort of depends on your age and what shape you were in prior to your surgery. If you were active and exercised a lot prior to your surgery, you’ll of course jump back a lot faster. Most people will resume some form of normal life but it just depends, again, on their age and activities.


So is it a matter of weeks or months?

Usually a matter of months. The average is around six weeks, which is the shortest period of time you’ll be doing physical therapy. However, we believe since this is a quality of life operation, it doesn’t stop with that. We really want people to go back to a wellness program after that. We like to think that at a year’s time after the surgery, you’ll be able to wake up one morning and realize, “Hmm, I don’t hurt anywhere anymore, I don’t have anything wrong with me; I am perfectly back to normal.”


Is it true that when it comes to rehab, “no pain, no gain”?

For hips, it’s not really that essential. Unfortunately, knees are quite painful after surgery, so there is a lot of pain to get the gain. We say for physical therapy there are three things you need: your shoes, your shorts and your pain medicine.


What can I expect from my physical therapy schedule?

For our knee patients, we are very aggressive because they need to get range of motion very quickly after the surgery. We have them coming in five days a week for two weeks, and then three days a week until they go back to see their surgeon in six weeks. For the hip patients, we’re a little bit more lenient at first. They come about twice a week in the beginning, then as they begin to reach around five or six weeks we start them coming in about three times a week. Then we transition them to a wellness plan.


A joint replacement is a big decision. Don’t suffer joint pain needlessly. Call us at (615) 936-7846 to talk about whether joint replacement will help you get back to doing what you love, pain-free.