In all surgical operations, the recovery phase is just as critical as the procedure itself. Sticking by your doctor’s proposed recovery plan can augment your healing and ensure the success of your total knee replacement surgery.
If you’re scheduled to undergo knee replacement surgery, then you probably have a lot of questions regarding your recovery timeline. Of course, recovery may go differently for each patient since it really depends on one’s condition, age, health status, and underlying illnesses.
In this article, we will provide a rough guide on how your recovery timeline might unfold. Read below as you discover the answers to your “when can I…” questions.
What to expect after a total knee replacement surgery?
Right after the surgery, you will be brought to a recovery room where a nurse or doctor will monitor you. You may be connected to an IV line, oxygen mask, and a patient monitor.
As the anesthesia wears off, you’ll start to regain feeling in the operated leg, as well as soreness, pain, and discomfort. These temporary symptoms are all normal and part of the healing process. Your doctor will prescribe pain medications and antibiotics to avoid infection.
When will rehabilitation begin?
Rehabilitation may start within 24 hours of the surgery. A physical therapist will visit you in the recovery room and assist you in performing light movements, such as sitting up, standing, or walking.
For patients that have a hard time putting weight on the operated leg, your PT can prescribe the use of assistive devices, such as a walker, cane, and crutches. You may also use these devices as you continue your recovery at home.
Additionally, your therapist can also recommend you use a CPM or continuous passive motion machine. This motorized equipment can help move the joint gently through a pre-set range of motion.
When can I go home?
Total knee replacement can be performed on an outpatient basis, which means you can go home on the day of the surgery. However, a more complex knee condition may need a more invasive operation, thus requiring the patient to stay overnight or at least 2 to 3 days. Older patients and those with chronic medical conditions (e.g., heart disease) may also be recommended to stay in the facility after the surgery.
Your doctor will discharge you depending on your health status, rate of healing, and recovery progress.
When can I move around?
Most patients can sit, stand, and eat on their own one to two days after the procedure. It is also safe to try and walk a short distance with or without assistance from a PT or a device. If you have a waterproof dressing, you can also take a quick shower during this timeframe.
However, it’s important to remember that your body still needs plenty of rest to recover from the surgery. So, do small tasks and exercise as needed but don’t overexert yourself.
What can I do while recovering at home?
Most patients get released one to three days after the surgery. With proper rehab and CPM exercises, your joints should be gradually getting their strength back by this time. At this stage, you’ll be able to:
- Stand, sit, and get out of bed on your own
- Shower, dress, and use the toilet on your own or with an assistive device.
- Go on longer walks, either with the assistance of someone or a device.
- Bend the knee and climb the stairs with help.
On the 3rd day, there’s also less pain and soreness, so your doctor will probably adjust your medications to low doses. It’s normal to feel easily tired, though, since the joint is still healing at this point.
Despite being able to move around, you should still refrain from doing household tasks, driving, lifting things, or returning to work.
What can I do 3 weeks after the surgery?
After 3 weeks, there should be a significant improvement in your mobility and range of motion. You can do most things on your own and use your knee joints for at least 10 minutes. You are not advised to go back to strenuous tasks, but daily living activities should become more manageable.
During this time, you will most likely switch to using a cane instead of a walker. You might also perform different activities on your own, without the help of an assistive device.
What can I do 6 to 10 weeks after the surgery?
After six weeks and beyond, you’ll be able to return back to your normal day-to-day and leisure activities. However, you should still stick to light activities in whatever you do. For example, you can take on simple household chores, such as washing or dusting the furniture. But avoid doing heavy tasks that require bending or standing for more than an hour.
Light exercises are okay. Avoid those with extreme movements or heavy lifting. You should also refrain from engaging in sports, especially ones with a high risk of falling.
Most patients can also go back to driving and office work after six to eight weeks. But it’s best to consult your doctor or physical therapist regarding this matter.
What can I do after 12 weeks and beyond?
At this stage, you should experience significantly less pain and swelling on the healing knee. Additionally, you may be able to do a lot of activities, such as swimming, stationary bicycle, and recreational walking.
You should still be committed to your rehabilitation at this point. Your physiotherapist may have upped your knee exercises and activity level to regain function and optimal strength. Some of these may include the following:
- Standing knee bends
- Toe and heel raises
- Mini squats
- Leg balances
- Hip abductions
- Knee exercise with resistance
It’s normal to feel pain and observe swelling after your rehab exercises. You can relieve these temporary symptoms by elevating the knee and putting on a cold compress or ice for 20 minutes.
Remember, it’s important to keep up with your exercises but do not force yourself. Rest if you must, then try again. If pain or swelling isn’t tolerable or does not go away after icing, you must contact your doctor immediately.
How long does it take to recover from a total knee replacement?
According to the AHKS, full recovery may take at least six to twelve months. The main goal of a total knee replacement is to improve your knee function and mobility, not the full restoration of motion.
But there’s no need to worry since your new knee can straighten and bend sufficiently, just enough for you to do tasks comfortably. Additionally, expect to feel numbness or stiffness when bending for prolonged periods of time. You may also hear a clicking noise when moving, which is all normal. These sensations may or may not go away with time.
When do I need to go back to the doctor?
After the surgery, your doctor may require you to check in a week or two after the procedure. Then the next appointment may be scheduled along the 6th to the 12th week of the timeline. If everything goes well, your next check-up will be after a year.
It’s important to attend every appointment with your doctor and physical therapist. In these sessions, they will gauge your new knee’s range of motion, flexibility, and strength. This will be their basis in clearing you to perform certain activities.
Where can I find the best Spring Hill orthopedics center?
Tarabishy Orthopedics is one of the leading providers of knee replacement surgery in the Spring Hill area. Our orthopedic physician, Dr Imad Tarabishy, specializes in treating various orthopedic conditions, including knee problems.
So if you require knee surgery or knee arthroscopy in Brooksville, just call us at 352 596 8558.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.