In this article, Founder, Paul Fath, PT discusses common causes for postoperative stiffness following total knee replacement and three tools you can use to help decrease stiffness so you can feel relief and move easier.


If we expand on the example above and discuss healing following your total knee replacement, our body responds in the same ways. The difference is that it’s a larger injury with more tissue to repair that needs to take place, from the skin to the bone. This recovery will take time and your recovery is a journey. In addition to the increased fluid in the area of your knee, your muscles may be inhibited and not be activating for a period of time following your surgery. If our muscles are not being used, the muscle fibers can shorten, also resulting in stiffness.

Another important consideration is to understand how our nervous system recovers following surgery. While you are under anesthesia and don’t feel anything during surgery, your nervous system remembers. Your body’s way of naturally protecting itself following an injury is to shorten the length of the muscles as a protective mechanism, resulting in stiffness.

Now that we have discussed some of the reasons postoperative muscle stiffness occurs, let’s take a closer look at some of the best ways to reduce your muscle stiffness.


How Can Myofascial Massage Help Decrease Postoperative Stiffness?


Gaiam Restore Cold Therapy Massage Roller

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Tiger Tail 18in Massage Stick Portable Roller and Myofascial Release Tool

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Body Back Manual Massage Roller Ball

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The Tiger Tail massage stick roller has two handles and has a broad contact area, allowing for better control of pressure and puts you in the driver’s seat in determining how much pressure you want to apply. The uniform foam layer also makes for a comfortable contact in pressure management. This is also a great tool for higher levels of stiffness and sensitivity.

Lastly, the Body Back massage roller ball provides stability when holding the base in the palm of your hand and a smaller surface area allowing for deeper pressure over a smaller area. This is most effective for those in the later stages of healing where people have increased tolerance to pressure.


How Can Movement Help Decrease Postoperative Stiffness?


Cited References

  1. Kim SM, Kim SR, Lee YK, Kim BR, Han EY. The effect of mechanical massage on early outcome after total knee arthroplasty: a pilot study. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Nov;27(11):3413-6. doi: 10.1589/jpts.27.3413. Epub 2015 Nov 30. PMID: 26696709; PMCID: PMC4681916.
  2. Karaborklu Argut S, Celik D, Kilicoglu OI. The Combination of Exercise and Manual Therapy Versus Exercise Alone in Total Knee Arthroplasty Rehabilitation: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. PM R. 2020 Dec 22. doi: 10.1002/pmrj.12542. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33352007.


About the Author

Paul Fath is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopaedics. His focus is in post-surgical care and rehabilitation of total knee replacement and rotator cuff repair surgery. Paul earned his DPT from the University of Miami and completed his orthopaedic residency with the MGH Institute of Health Professions.

Hub Physical Therapy LLC delivers outpatient-level physical therapy in the comfort of your home.



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