Arthroscopy has become one of the most frequently used procedures for the diagnosis and treatment of various knee injuries. Each type of arthroscopy surgery is slightly different; therefore, treatment varies depending on the technique, physician, and individual. Your physical therapist will guide you through rehab consisting of a specific, individually based approach that is appropriate for you and your surgery.
Initial Phase: Physical therapy is necessary after surgery to restore normal mobility and strength in your knee. The initial goals of rehab are to restore full knee range of motion, decrease pain and swelling, achieve good quad muscle contraction, and walk normally. It is very important to work on increasing motion in the knee, especially extension (straightening the knee). You have approximately 30-45 days to regain this motion before the extension range is set and may never improve. This is the #1 goal. Most patients do not have difficulty regaining the flexion (bending) motion in the knee, as long as the therapy exercises are performed. Also, it is necessary to re-train the quad muscle to fire and contract appropriately. Patients are usually on crutches after surgery, ranging from 0-10 days, but it can vary depending on the patient. As a guideline, when you are walking without a limp, you can usually stop using the crutches. As soon as you are able to put full weight on your injured leg without any pain, you may also begin to drive a car, but the final decision to drive is up to you and your physician.
Intermediate Phase: In the next phase of rehab, resistance exercises are gradually increased to strengthen the knee and muscles of the leg. During this time, balance and stability exercises are also performed to help make the knee more stable.
Return to Function Phase: The final phase focuses on increasing the function of the patient and returning to former activities (i.e. sports, work, hobbies, etc.). Your therapist will progress you with exercises that address your individual deficits and needs, leading to return of normal activity for most patients at about 4-6 weeks, but the time frame may range from 4-12 weeks. Good guidelines for returning to normal activity are minimal swelling, no pain, and good muscle control and strength.