Recovering From Knee Replacement Surgery
Full recovery from knee replacement surgery involves hard work. Each of the precautions and exercises given after surgery is there for a reason. Patients with the best outcomes follow instructions and endure some limitations during recovery, to ensure the very best results from their knee replacement.
Short Term Recovery
Short term recovery is the time it will take for your knee to initially heal from surgery. You will be dealing with pain during this phase, but medications can make the pain manageable. During short term recovery, your role is crucial. The good news is that most patients notice vast improvement during this phase, as they experience their new, smoothly moving joint for the first time.
While in the hospital, you’ll be prescribed activities to prevent blood clots from forming in your veins. You’ll also perform exercises to help your joint heal properly, minimize scar tissue and strengthen your muscles to support the new joint. Your pain will be controlled via medications. Be sure to talk with your nurse or doctor if you feel the medications are not effective. Also be sure to take your medications in advance of each day’s physical therapy exercise. Pain relief will be essential for your active participation in the exercises.
Within a few days, you should be able to move well enough to leave the hospital and return home.
Physical therapy within the first six weeks continues to be very important. Physical therapy improves the motion of the knee and allows for a natural transition back to more normal knee movement in daily activities. Patients who comply with physical therapy exercises tend to recover much faster. (See exercises after knee surgery)
With continued careful attention to your new joint, you should gradually increase your mobility until you can walk around the house without pain and then without crutches or a walker.
The average time for this short-term recovery is 6 to 12 weeks. You will work with your doctor to assess when you are ready to resume activities like driving, returning to work or resuming sports.
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Long Term Recovery from Knee Replacement Surgery
3-6 months post surgery
Long term recovery involves the complete healing of the surgical wounds and the internal soft tissues that were involved in the operation. When you are ready to return to work and your normal activities, you are on the way to full term recovery. This phase can last between 3 and 6 months. Swelling of the foot may occur even at one year.
There will be some precautions needed even after you have achieved “full recovery” and are back to your normal activities.
- You will need to be cautious about infections – for the rest of your life. You will need to alert your dentist or doctor that you have a knee replacement and likely take antibiotics before any major dental or invasive procedures. This will help prevent infection from entering the body and settling in your artificial joint.
- You should also avoid or talk with your doctor about activities that are high impact or involve twisting the knee. These include jogging, tennis, badminton, contact sports (such as football, baseball), squash or racquetball, jumping, squats, skiing, or jogging. Do not do any heavy lifting (more than 40 lb) or weight lifting.
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