I'm in a rehab program for my knee. I had a total knee replacement four weeks ago. As I look over the program yet to come I'm a little worried. Won't all these exercises wear down my new knee? I'd like to keep it nice as long as I can.

Your concern is certainly justified. Since we know knee replacements have a long, but limited life, it's a good idea to take care of it as best as possible. Exercise is a key to preventing uneven wear on the joint. Strong muscles on either side of the knee and above and below the joint will also keep it from having too much pressure that can wear it down.

Results of many studies using patients with arthritis support the use of an intense rehab program. Each program should be designed for each patient. One size does not fit all!

In general, it is true the early weeks of rehab focus on helping the joint heal. Gentle exercises, massage, and medications help reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness. After the acute healing phase, more aggressive exercise and movement can be added.

In fact studies show weakness remains a problem for many patients with a total knee joint a year after the operation. Weak muscles around the joint put the knee at risk for problems later.