Muscles will definitely atrophy around the affected joint before surgery and if you waited for months or years to have the surgery completed, no doubt there is a marked difference in the size and strength of your legs when compared to each other.
I have gone through this situation myself many Years Ago precisely 40 years ago to be exact with a fractured femur, I had nine separate fractures and after it was all said and dione, I did not receive any skilled PT at all, therefore, I was my own therapist at 16 years of age. How do you think that went?
Today, I still have a discrepancy in leg strength between my right and left leg, this probably could have been prevented years ago with a sound and well-structured exercise program.
To avoid that from happening to others, I stress that you are sure to include in your post physical therapy routines, a unilateral strengthening program, in other words be sure to work each leg individually during the strengthening process.
Most of the time your stronger leg will of course try and pick up the slack for your weaker leg when doing exercises like leg presses, squatting, and leg extensions for instance.
Be sure to work your legs on a individual basis and concentrate heavily on the previously injured or surgical leg to be sure you develop equal strength between the two. When one leg is stronger than the other depending on the strength discrepancy, your age and activity level, you can develop problems elsewhere in the lower body due to muscle imbalances and strength.
The problems such as unexplained pain can surface in your low back, or hips for instance. This generally is a problem for older adults. Younger athletic individuals when injured in today’s world of rehabilitation and sports medicine techniques, the problem in leg strength discrepancies’ are dealt with immediately as rehabilitation today is started much sooner after surgery and, there is a lot of fantastic exercise equipment on the market today that allows for unilateral strengthening to occur and, it can be easily measured today as well.
I will still work on unilateral exercises with my legs when it comes to helping maintain balance between the two and help with stability in my pelvic and low back area.
In fact in some cases, the injured or surgical leg comes out in better condition than it was before the injury due to improved physical rehabilitation and sport medicine techniques and practices. Some will still debate the fact that nothing is quite as strong after surgery as it was before however, you can make it pretty damn close.
Again, take the time when drawing up your fitness routine to include individual leg exercise’s to develop equal or close to equal strength in both of your legs as possible for improved overall functional results and to diminish structural problems developing later on as you age.
Richard Haynes PTA, CPT
Total Joint Fitness LLC
Total Joint Fitness LLC