Eye on Health: Physical therapy key after joint surgery

Experts say physical therapy is smart after joint surgery. // WSBT 22 photo

The decision to have joint replacement surgery isn't easy, and for those who end up needing it physical therapy is critical.

Dr. Christopher Owens, from Goshen Orthopedics, said physical therapy is critical after a join replacement.

"One, it speeds up their recovery, and additionally it gets them moving - helps prevent complications, things like blood clots or other things that we worry about," Owens said.

And today, patients are on their feet fast.

"Often times patients are up and out of bed and walking the afternoon after surgery," Owens said.

Susan Trippel remembers well.

"It's a life changing thing anytime you go to surgery," Trippel said.

She's only 51 but battles early arthritis. She tried everything before Owens told her she needed a knee replacement.

"Tried to put a happy face on, but inside it was killing me," Trippel said. "It was hard to get through the day, and I'm usually a bright, bubbly person, so I knew I had to do something."

Formal therapy can last months after surgery, and home exercises are part of it.

"If the patient doesn't regain full motion in that joint or fails to strengthen the muscles around that joint, then often times they have an incomplete recovery and don't achieve the maximum benefit in terms of function or pain relief," Owens said.

Trippel is not one of those patients.

"I'm 14 weeks out now, and people see me and they say, 'Oh you're walking really good,' and I am," she said.

Cooperation is key to recovery.

"For some patients that comes naturally, exercising and performing the exercises and for some it doesn't, and that's where we really rely on the help of our colleagues in physical therapy to assist and make sure the patients are on the right path after surgery," Owens said.

Trippel thinks she's on that path.

"I still have a long ways to go. I still have strength issues, but it'll get better every day," Trippel said.

Trippel is doing very well with her recovery but already has been told she will likely need a second knee replacement in the near future.

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