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As your knee replacement surgery’s coming up, it’s normal to feel anxious. But while the surgery might be the scary part, the knee replacement recovery that follows is as important as the operation.
Indeed, the rehabilitation process is vital in helping you heal from the surgery. With proper recovery, you’ll regain mobility faster, stack the odds in your favor for long term success, and be able to resume your regular lifestyle sooner.
It’s especially crucial to follow the recovery plan and put in all the effort you can every day.
Thanks to this article, you’ll know what to expect during the critical rehabilitation period after your total knee replacement surgery. You can set up realistic goals and get in the right mindset for an efficient recovery. Read on.
Day 1: The Recovery Journey Starts
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Your recovery process will start almost right after the surgery. You’ll have to start using your new knee as soon as possible to prevent the onset of stiffness and buildup of scar tissue.
Your physical therapist (PT) will help you perform exercises every day to work out your muscles. They will show you how to get out of bed and walk around using an assistive device, such as a walker or crutches.
They will also help you with using the continuous passive motion machine, which will prevent your knee from staying immobile.
A nurse will be there to help you with changing your bandage, and tasks such as bathing, dressing, and going to the bathroom.
Day 2: More Autonomy
Building upon the first day’s exercises, you’ll be asked to walk for a few steps with your assistive device. You might also climb a few steps to give your knee more of a challenge. You’ll be less groggy from the surgery and more active.
Day 3: Time to Return Home
You should be getting used to your new knee by now and capable of exercising more. Your pain medication should be switched to something less potent.
To aid your recovery, you’ll go on longer walks and climb some stairs up and down. You’ll work on bending your knee. You’ll be able to dress, bathe, and go to the bathroom without help. You’ll start progressively phasing out your assistive device.
Week 1-3: Return to Freedom
Following your discharge from the hospital, you should be comfortable moving around and the pain shouldn’t be as bad.
You might still rely on an assistive device but you’ll be using it less and less. Crutches or a cane should be enough for you to get by at this point, as opposed to a walker.
You’ll be exercising daily as per your PT’s recommendation. You’ll be able to dress and bathe on your own, and should make sure to walk every day. Your medication should be reduced as the pain becomes less intense.
Weeks 4-6: Dramatic Improvement
If you’ve stuck to your exercise regimen, your knee should feel much better by now. You’ll notice improved flexibility as you can bend it more, and in a wider range of motion.
You might be able to move around without the help of an assistive device, and walk longer distances. You can perform daily chores without too much trouble and feel more self-sufficient.
Make sure to consult with your PT before resuming driving and going back to work. You might be able to return to your regular schedule depending on how well your recovery is going.
Weeks 7-11: The Road to Recovery
Your recovery is well on its way. You can walk for a mile without crutches or cane and can resume normal daily tasks such as driving and shopping.
Your PT should give you more demanding exercises to strengthen your knee. Those exercises may include heel raises, partial knee bends, leg balances, and step-ups. You might also use an exercise bike.
At this point, it’s vital to stick to the exercise routine. You might be feeling better already, but you should stay committed to your recovery to ensure your health in the long term.
Getting overconfident and sloppy might lead to not having a complete recovery and experiencing chronic knee pain in the future.
Week 12: Back in Business
If you’ve been dedicated to your workout routine, you should be able to enjoy all normal everyday activities, including physical activities such as swimming, dancing, and bicycling.
Make sure to stick to the plan prescribed by your PT. And even though you’re feeling almost 100%, you should still avoid activities putting too much strain on your knee.
Steer clear of intense sports that involve lots of running or high-impact, such as jogging, basketball, football, skiing, etc.
By now, the pain should be all but gone. However, you should keep in contact with your medical team and check in with them before engaging in a new physical activity.
After Week 12: Total Knee Replacement Recovery
After week 12, you should feel your knee continue to improve as you feel more and more comfortable with it. The pain should disappear over time. It might take up to a year to feel entirely recovered.
However, if you feel any pain, strain, stiffness, or anything unusual with your knee, you should get in touch with your surgeon right away. You should also stay in contact with your PT and have regular checkups to make sure everything’s alright.
The typical period to rehabilitate a replaced knee is between 3 and 12 months. This disparity can be explained by various factors such as age, and general health. But the effort you put in recovering is also essential to recovering faster.
Recover Well From Your Surgery
Now you know the essentials of knee replacement recovery. You can expect a minimum of 3 months to achieve total recovery, but keep in mind it can take up to a year.
Make sure to follow your medical team’s recommendations and stick to the routine as much as possible. The most important factor in recovering fully from the surgery is yourself!
Check out our health section for more advice on general well-being to recover from surgery even faster.