Get the Best Results with Your Knee Replacement Recovery

Wed, May 17, 2023

Get the Best Results with Your Knee Replacement Recovery

If you’re having or thinking about partial or total knee replacement to help reduce pain or get better functionality, you probably wonder about what kind of knee replacement recovery time you’ll face. How do you prepare for it? How will you feel? Will you need help? How can you get better results? And, the biggest question of all: How long will recovery take?

As one of the region’s top knee replacement surgical teams, North Carolina Specialty Hospital has the answers you need for a comfortable, successful recovery from total or partial knee replacement.

What to Expect About Knee Replacement Surgery Recovery Time

A happy man stands outside with his arms outstretched next to his walker, excited his knee replacement recovery time is going well. While you should be well on the road to recovery by 12 weeks, it may take six months to a year to regain maximum endurance. That makes sense when you understand what happens to your knee during the surgery. Your surgeon:

  • Removes the damaged ends of the tibia and fibula
  • Press-fits or cements metal joint pieces onto the ends of the bones
  • Inserts a plastic spacer between the metal pieces for a smooth, gliding surface

Tissues and bone surfaces need time to heal, and you also need to strengthen muscles. Learning what to expect during recovery and committing to a plan will help with a successful rehabilitation and better quality of life.

What can you do to prepare?

First, make sure your home is safe, comfortable, and easy to get around in.

  • Plan on living on one floor
  • Tighten loose stair railings
  • Add a chair to your shower
  • Get a raised toilet seat
  • Put away rugs, and secure cords
  • Get a stable, comfortable chair and a footstool to raise your leg

Next, arrange for family, friends, or a caregiver to bring you home afterward and help you. This may include rides to and from physical therapy.

Last, purchase or rent any equipment such as a walker, crutches, or a cane.

For more information, watch this video series from NCSH about preparation, physical therapy, and more insights into planning for your best recovery.

What about medication?

Your doctor will prescribe pain medications such as opioids along with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs).

You may also take anti-clotting medication to reduce the chance of blood clots forming. And your doctor may recommend compression socks or devices to promote blood flow.

When does recovery start?

Immediately. While knee replacement surgery is often performed on an outpatient basis, some older patients or those with underlying health conditions or undergoing a total knee replacement may stay overnight. (If you have both knees replaced, you’ll stay longer.) But regardless of how long you stay, recovery starts as soon as you wake up after surgery. A physical therapist will help you stand up and walk using crutches, a walker, or a cane.

What happens next?

Weeks One and Two:

You’ll follow your physical therapist’s instructions. These cover exercises to regain strength and increase range of motion. They may also have you use a recumbent bike. To reduce inflammation, use an ice pack several times a day at the start. After that, both heat and ice can help ease pain and stiffness.

It’s important to watch for any signs of infection. Tell your doctor if you see or experience:

  • Fever, chills, or fatigue
  • Increased pain
  • Pus or other drainage at the incision
  • Swelling or increased stiffness
  • Redness around the joint and/or incision

Week Three:

You’ll continue the exercises and can probably use a cane instead of a walker. Many people are through with prescription pain medication now.

Weeks Five and Six:

In addition to continuing exercises, your physical therapist will encourage you to start longer walks. At six weeks, there’s a good chance that you can start driving.

Weeks Seven to Eleven:

At this point, there should be less pain and swelling. Exercises are for increasing knee strength, mobility, and range of motion and may include:

  • Using a stationary bike
  • Swimming and walking recreationally
  • Rising back and forth on toes and heels and balancing on one foot for an extended time

Week Twelve+:

Continue exercising and start other low-impact activities such as golf, dancing, and bicycling. Your knee should have full range of motion. You shouldn’t have much, if any, pain.

You’ll probably check in with your orthopedic surgeon to monitor your progress over the next few months.

What’s the most important thing you can do to help in your recovery?

#1: Do your physical therapy.

#2: Don’t take chances with risky behavior that can increase the chance of falling.

#3: Don’t schedule any other procedures during your recovery!

North Carolina Specialty Hospital’s Knee Replacement Experts Take Good Care of You

At North Carolina Specialty Hospital, taking care of you is all that we’ve done since we opened our doors in 1926. Learn more about our minimally invasive joint replacement surgery. We’re there for you every part of the way: before your knee replacement, during the procedure, and for your entire knee replacement recovery time. Watch our video to help prepare for your best outcome.

Then, request an appointment by clicking on the surgeon’s photo and completing the form. We look forward to helping you get back to better knee functionality and freedom from pain.

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