When you’ve chosen to have an elective surgery like a total or partial knee replacement, you’ve probably made that decision in order to relieve some daily pain or limited mobility that is keeping you from activities you once enjoyed. Knee replacement surgery is performed with the goal of relieving that pain and improving movement, and is often considered after you’ve already made lifestyle changes or tried medications, all to no avail.
The good news is that knee replacement surgery is the most common elective surgery in the United States. In fact, around 400,000 Americans have total knee replacement surgery every year, with the average age of patients being 68 years old. Plus, the surgery has excellent long-term results, with about 90 percent of the surgeries lasting for at least 10 to 15 years. Most individuals are able to get back to the active, independent lifestyle they are accustomed to in a relatively short amount of time.
Knee Replacement Recovery – What to Expect
Throughout your knee replacement recovery period, therapy and rehabilitation will play a crucial role in successfully getting you back on your feet. You will heal faster and can greatly improve the chances for long-term success.
Here is what you can expect in the weeks following your knee replacement surgery:
Rehabilitation will begin the day after your surgery. You’ll be on your feet and using a walker for assistance, as a major component of your recovery relies on you getting up and using your knee as soon as possible. A physical therapist will help you by providing strengthening exercises and showing you how to get in and out of bed, a chair, go up a flight of stairs, etc. as well as discuss your home environment and what modifications may need to be made. By the time you are discharged from the hospital, your knee should already be feeling stronger and your activity levels should be increasing.
You should be in less pain by the second and third week of your knee replacement recovery period, and will be relying less frequently on assistive devices to help you get around. You will also still be highly involved in your physical therapy routine, but should be on fewer and less powerful pain medications.
Week 4-6 and Beyond
A month after your knee replacement surgery, you should notice a dramatic improvement in your knee and mobility. You will no longer require the use of assistive devices to get around, and should feel as though you’re really getting back to your normal routine. You’ll even find that many of the activities that were becoming so difficult pre-surgery, like climbing stairs, cleaning the house, and walking for longer distances are far easier to perform post-surgery.
Three to four months after your knee replacement surgery, you should be almost 100 percent pain free, enjoying all the activities you previously enjoyed, whether that was walking, golfing, dancing, etc. However, most physical therapists will recommend you refrain from high-impact exercises like running or aerobics, as these types of activities can damage your knee replacement or the tissue surrounding it. A typical full recovery from a total knee replacement surgery is three to 12 months. If at any point throughout your recovery you feel any stiffness, swelling, pain or unusual movement in your knee, it’s important to contact your doctor immediately.