Can I rehab my knee without physical therapy?

After many of the surgeries we perform as orthopedic surgeons, especially when we operate on athletes and active people, we have the patient work with a physical therapist. In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I answer the question of a reader who wonders if working with a physical therapist is always necessary.

Jimmy asks:
Is it possible to rehabilitate your knee after surgery without a physical therapist?

After a knee surgery, you must get your swelling down and regain your normal knee range of motion and leg strength. For some surgeries, like a partial meniscectomy, you might be able to achieve these goals on your own doing exercises at home every day. For other surgeries, like ACL reconstructions, it is much more difficult to achieve these goals on your own.

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In this video, I explain when physical therapy is needed and when working with a physical therapist can help you return to what you do as quickly and safely as possible.

Have you had knee surgery, and did you try to get back to normal without physical therapy? How did it go?

Also read:
Ask Dr. Geier – How can I fully recover after injury?
Ask Dr. Geier – Time to wait before physical activity after knee surgery

Please remember, while I appreciate your questions, I cannot and will not offer specific medical advice by email, online, on my show, or in the comments at the end of these posts. My responses are meant to provide general medical information and education. Please consult your physician or health care provider for your specific medical concerns.

2 Responses to Can I rehab my knee without physical therapy?

  1. I had ACL surgery in 2014. I went through two distinct phases of physical therapy. First was immediately thereafter. This concentrated on restoring mobility, reduction of swelling, normal hair, etc. Then as I progressed I moved from regular therapy to a sports centric therapy that prepared me to return to sports.

    I did buy a lot of equipment and did a lot of work on my own. Having a therapist tends to keep you accountable as well as to make sure you are performing the exercises correctly.

    I watched numerous others in therapy and if I had to speculate on the outcomes, I would say that personal motivation seemed to me to be the greatest predictor of quality outcomes. Those who came to work got better.

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david-headshot I am an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

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