What to Expect After a Knee Replacement

Knee replacement surgery (also referred to as knee arthroplasty) can reduce pain and improve function in knee joints that have deteriorated significantly. Most knee replacements are performed to relieve severe pain caused by osteoarthritis. Your knee surgeon will cut away damaged bone and cartilage from your thigh bone, shin bone and kneecap and replace it with an artificial joint (prosthesis) that is made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics, and polymers.

Immediately after your surgery, you will likely need to stay at the hospital for about one day. You can expect to be up on your feet before you leave the hospital. It might be difficult to walk on your own at first, and you may need parallel bars, crutches, a walker, or a cane for a while to get up. A physical therapist will show you how to exercise your new knee to speed healing and recovery. After you leave the hospital, you’ll continue physical therapy at home or at a facility like Move Better.

For several weeks following the surgery, you might need to use crutches or a walker, so be sure to arrange for them before your procedure. Plan for someone to give you a ride home from the hospital and help with everyday tasks such as cooking, bathing and doing laundry for a few weeks. If you live alone, your surgeon’s staff or hospital discharge planner can suggest a temporary caretaker.

Make it easier to navigate your home during recovery by considering some of the following suggestions:

  • Move your living space to one floor while climbing stairs is still difficult.
  • Install safety bars or a secure handrail in your shower or bath.
  • Make sure your stairway handrails are secure.
  • Find an ottoman, stool, or chair that you can use to elevate your leg.
  • Install a toilet-seat riser with arms if you have a low toilet.
  • Use a stable bench or chair in your shower.
  • Remove loose rugs, stray cords, and other obstacles from floors.

In most cases, you can expect significant improvement in flexibility and a reduction of pain within a month. It’s important to perform your knee exercises regularly and often to reduce swelling and strengthen your muscles. You may still experience mild pain, and the area may be swollen for 3 to 6 months after surgery.

Your knee will continue to improve over the next 6 to 12 months. You may need to use a walker for 1 to 3 weeks before moving on to crutches, and eventually you can graduate to a cane. You should be able to walk on your own within 4 to 8 weeks.

Physical therapy is vital after a knee replacement. Specific exercises provided by a trained physical therapist will help you strengthen the muscles of the knee and help you regain proper lower extremity movement. After you recover, your artificial knee should enable you to perform normal daily activities with less pain or no pain at all. Talk to your doctor and physical therapist about what activities you are able to do during and after recovery, and always inform caregivers and personal trainers that you have an artificial knee.

The time it takes to be able to walk on your own, return to normal activities, and go back to work depends on your health and your dedication to physical therapy. The better you are about performing your exercises, the less time it will take to get your strength and movement back.

Let Move Better Physical Therapy help you with your knee replacement recovery! Our experienced physical therapists can help you recover more quickly with less pain, and our facility can provide the tools to ensure the best possible results from your procedure. Call us today at (434) 817-0980 to Move Better!