Knee replacement surgery is often performed on patients with severe pain and joint degeneration as a result of osteoarthritis or a traumatic injury. The procedure involves replacing sections of bone and joint with a prosthetic to reduce pain. To improve range of motion and the ability to return to sport, we now feature robotically assisted total knees.
If your doctor has recommended knee replacement, you probably have a lot of questions, such as how soon you’ll be back on your feet, what to expect after the procedure, and if there’s anything you need to do to prepare beforehand.
Dr. Stephen Raterman, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Florida Medical Clinic, answers patients’ most common questions about knee replacement recovery and offers tips to make the recovery process easier.
About Knee Replacement Surgery & Recovery
There are two types of knee replacement surgery: partial replacement and total replacement. Your exact recovery timeline will depend on the type of procedure you have done.
While timelines may vary, most patients can expect:
- Physical therapy. A key part of your knee replacement recovery will be seeing a licensed physical therapist. They’ll show you how to do exercises and stretches to strengthen the muscles around your knee and keep your joints flexible.
- Assistive devices. An assistive mobility device like a cane or walker can help you get around while recovering from surgery. You’ll meet with a physical therapist soon after surgery to learn how to use an assistive device properly.
- Pain medications. Your doctor may prescribe you medications to help manage pain, especially in the first few days after your procedure. Dr. Raterman’s team features a non-narcotic multimodal pain medicine regimen which minimizes the need for addictive pain medicines.
Before Surgery: How to Prep for Recovery
You won’t be able to do many daily activities around the house for a few days or weeks after surgery. It’s highly recommended you make preparations before your procedure to make things easier for when you arrive home.
Here are some tips:
- Remove trip hazards. Remove rugs, rearrange furniture to create clear walkways between rooms, and make sure electrical cords are kept out of the way so that you don’t accidentally trip.
- Move essential items to the first floor. It’ll be difficult to go up and down the stairs while you’re recovering, so if you live in a multi-story home, bring down everything you need to the first floor to prevent unnecessary trips. If you have to use stairs for any reason, be sure there are secure railings installed.
- Use a shower bench. Consider getting an easy-to-use shower chair or bench that’s designed for people with restricted mobility. This can make bathing more comfortable and less tiring, and also reduce your risk of slipping and falling.
- Meal prep or stock up on premade food. Even the most avid home chef may find cooking too strenuous right after surgery. Frozen dinners, canned foods, and prepackaged snacks will be more convenient. Prioritize vegetables, whole grains, and protein—and be sure to avoid meals made with excess sodium, fat, or sugar.
- Ask for help. Ask a family member, close friend, or professional home medical aide for help with daily tasks after surgery.
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Knee Replacement Recovery Timeline
Depending on the type of knee replacement surgery you receive, it may be an outpatient procedure (meaning you can go home right after it’s done) or an inpatient procedure (you’ll be asked to stay at the hospital for a day or two afterward).
Partial knee replacement surgeries are often outpatient procedures, while total knee replacements are becoming increasingly commonplace outpatient but have traditionallly been performed as inpatient.
The exact recovery timeline will also depend on what type of surgery you receive, as well as a few other factors. The better conditioned you are preopeeratively, the faster your recovery will be postoperatively. Typically, many partial knee replacement patients are back to daily activities after about four weeks, while patients who receive a total replacement may need up to 8 weeks.
One Day After Surgery
You’ll meet with a licensed physical therapist within the first 24 hours to learn how to use a cane, walker, or another assistive device to move around. They’ll also show you how to bend, lift, and move around in a way that doesn’t put too much strain on your body. If your overall heath requires it, a nurse is sometimes sent to your house.
For your return home, you will be given prescriptions for several pain medications and an anti-inflammatory to help with discomfort and swelling. Because you will have received two analgesic blocks during your surgery, your initial pain levels will be low. As mentioned before, rather than taking the strongest narcotic first, we want you to take the other non -narcotic pain medicines in a sequential manner like the layers of a cake. These include an anti-inflammatory, a nerve pain pill, and a muscle relaxer. Only take the narcotic for breakthrough pain if the other medicines are not holding your pain at acceptable levels.
Note: It’s critical that you take all medications as instructed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions or concerns.
10 Days After
A week or two into your knee replacement recovery, you’ll start to meet regularly with a outpatient physical therapist. They’ll ask you to stretch and bend your knee to evaluate your range of motion. You’ll also be shown exercises to strengthen your muscles and joints, as well as how to get around the house and ge t back to your daily activities safely.
You’ll still feel some pain and swelling a week after surgery, but it should start to noticeably improve. If your pain doesn’t get better, call your doctor.
One Month After
As you continue working with your physical therapist and following up with your orthopedic surgeon, you’ll be able to move around more easily. You also won’t need to use an assistive device as often, and we want you to progress as rapidly as possible to a normal gait pattern.
The pain and swelling should mostly subside after one month, though you may still feel some discomfort if you spend too much time on your feet. About 3-4 weeks after surgery, you’ll also be able to resume driving with your surgeon’s OK.
If you received a partial knee replacement, your recovery time may be even shorter than this and you should start feeling normal about one month in.
Two Months After
Two months after surgery, you’ll continue physical therapy and start to notice a major increase in your mobility. You’ll be able to resume almost all daily activities and may be able to participate in light, low-impact exercises and recreational activities. You’ll still need to avoid high-impact activities like jogging and playing sports.
Learn More About What to Expect After Knee Replacement
If non-surgical treatments have been ineffective, knee replacement may be the answer to your pain and stiffness. Being well-prepared before the procedure will help to ensure your recovery goes quickly and smoothly.
To learn whether knee replacement surgery is right for you, schedule an appointment with Dr. Raterman at a Florida Medical Clinic location in North Tampa, Wiregrass, or Zephyrhills. Telemedicine visits are also available.
About Stephen Raterman, MD, FACS
Dr. Stephen Raterman has been treating Florida patients since 1990 as a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Raterman is also a Clinical Associate Professor of Orthopedics at the University of South Florida.
Dr. Raterman specializes in joint replacement surgery, including hip resurfacing and partial knee replacements. By focusing on the latest procedures, Dr. Raterman aims to reduce the amount of time patients spend recovering and get them back on their feet faster.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Every patient is different, so talk with your orthopedic doctor to learn what treatment options are best for you.