Avera Medical Minute ASH: Physical therapy after bilateral total knee replacement

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When it comes to mobility, our knees are of the most important joints in the body. And when they fail us, often total knee replacement surgery is the answer.

But surgery is just the beginning. Patients must put the work into physical therapy to reap the benefits from their knee replacement.

“I trust the therapists. I know they know what they’re doing. And if they think I can do it, then I’m going to do it,” said Sister Bonita Gacnik

Sister Bonita has come a long way since her first physical therapy appointment with Michael Donner. She had a bilateral knee replacement just five weeks ago.

“To look at your foot and to have somebody say ‘pick it up, just lift it a little bit’ and to have it not respond at all, it’s not frightening as much as oh my God. It’s like there’s no connection anymore. Now there is,” said Sister Bonita.

“No matter how many times, the education before somebody goes through it, a knee replacement, there’s always expectations afterwards of ‘I’m going to be moving really well.’ And usually the first week I call it the ‘what did I get myself into’ stage. So usually when they come in as outpatient, that first visit is calming the person down, helping reassure them that they’re going to get where they want to get and kind of talking them through the normal stages of the actual recovery and get them into range of motion,” said Sister Bonita.

“Starting out, we did a lot of strengthening for her legs and knee range of motion, and of course usually they come in with a front wheel walker. So we’re working on gate mechanics, helping them work on walking on less of a limp with a walker. Now as that proceeds, then we move on to a single point cane in most cases. And then we start knit-picking on that, trying to get their walking pattern better with that. And right now Sister Bonita and I are currently in the stage where we’re actually trying to ween off the cane working on more walking with no assisted device -- so that she can get back to having fun and doing the things she wants to do,” said Donner.

“There’s a real family environment here. We have a lot of fun but we all work hard and I’ve really enjoyed the experience. I’ll miss going over here. I may have to stop over and just say hi.

Donner says the work doesn’t stop after the physical therapy appointment. Patients must also practice what they’ve learned at home to receive the best results.

For more information, just call 877-AT-AVERA.