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How to Survive Physical Therapy After a Knee Injury

At Home Exercises, Home Exercises, Physical Therapist, Physical Therapy

Been there, done that. Physical therapy is no easy task. People in movies make physical therapy look easy. The truth is, it isn’t! Physical therapy is hard work. It’s the hard work like you used to experience in high school when the season for your sport came around and you hadn’t trained during the off season. Remember that stiff soreness of the first week of practice? Take that and multiply by however many times you have to attend physical therapy, or PT for short.

Let’s take a knee injury that requires surgery and a couple of weeks on crutches. First off, if you have never been on crutches before, you will begin to develop a deep appreciation for automatic doors and flat sidewalks. After filling out the paperwork, you are assigned to a therapist. What’s funny about physical therapists is that they develop a sense of trust with the person. They begin the routine of asking how things are going, what problems you are experiencing, and how much pain you are in.

The first few days, you will be doing pretty easy exercises. They will take measurements on how far you can bend and straighten your knee and see how far you are. They should take the time out to tell you the plan of action and note any future doctor appointments that you have scheduled.

One of the best pieces of advice to pass on to rookie physical therapy goers is DO WHATEVER THEY TELL YOU TO DO! If they want you to take home a bungee band and work on stretches, do it. If they want you to practice walking, do that. If they want you to practice doing one-legged squats, do it! It will help them when it comes time to go back into the office and they want to measure how far you’ve gotten. They will measure your performance on all of the different aspects of the knee. How is your balance? How much weight can you lift? Can you walk without limping?

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Don’t push yourself too hard. If you want to make through the entire course of physical therapy without having to have another knee surgery, don’t push yourself too hard too soon. Obviously, with any injury you are going to experience pain. The trick is to realize when the pain is too much to push on. Sure, you want to make it to the two-mile mark on the elliptical machine, but if you are barely getting by and you are only a half-mile in, maybe you should reduce that goal for now. However, if you are a mere .15 miles away from the two-mile mark, go for it!

This brings on the next point, goal setting. Don’t be afraid to set goals. If you want to be able to balance on your injured leg for three minutes straight, set that goal. Realized though, that you should also set mini-goals to make it up to that point. After injuring a knee, a 30 second balance is actually really good. You can even talk to your physical therapist and have them help you set your goals. Then, you can both work together on the goals. Plus, if another person (especially your physical therapist) knows your goals, they can help push you and give you that extra encouragement.

PT can be hard work. Sweat and sometimes tears are involved. One of the worst parts (at least to me) was the seven-letter word…stretch. This is maybe one of the hardest parts when it comes to PT. You are told to lie on a table and relax. Then the physical therapist proceeds to push, pull, and maneuver your knee. While in pain, you are expected to remain lying and continue to be relaxed. At times, it will feel like if your knee went any further, it will bust. You will make it through though; have no worries. Be as relaxed as you can during the stretch period. If you feel sore afterwards, you can request an ice pack, most places will be more than happy to help you out.

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Also, you should receive some instructions on exercises that you can do while you are at home. Many offices print off diagrams to follow and make sure you know exactly what you are doing. By doing this at home exercises, you can build up strength and progress faster in physical therapy. Once you have completed your course of rehab, congratulate yourself because you survived physical therapy.