Top 5 Mistakes After Knee Replacement and How to Avoid Them

Knee arthroplasty, or knee replacement surgery, involves the removal of worn or damaged knee joint components and their replacement with new, artificial ones. People who have to get knee replacements usually have experienced degeneration in their knee cartilage, osteoarthritis, or knee injuries. In addition to improving the way you’re able to move around, the operation can provide significant pain relief.

Knowing how to avoid the top 5 mistakes after knee replacement is crucial for a smooth recovery. This will help you avoid infections and other knee replacement complications.

The Importance of Post-Surgery Care

Along with elevation and rest, there are several other components to post-operative care for a knee replacement. Physical therapy improves joint mobility while restoring strength and flexibility to prevent muscle atrophy.

Pain management, which may or may not include medications, makes it easier for patients to engage in rehabilitation exercises and can shorten the recovery timeline. If your doctor prescribes medications, you must take them as prescribed to reduce inflammation. Some medications are important for preventing complications like blood clots.

Post-surgery care may also include the use of compression therapy to reduce swelling and improve circulation throughout the body. If necessary, your doctor will recommend the use of assistive devices like walkers or crutches to help you maintain your balance.

Although post-surgery care is critical to achieving a fast and full knee replacement recovery, pre-habilitation, or pre-hab, is important too. Pre-hab for knee replacement consists of exercises done before surgery to strengthen the muscles around the knee. According to the Arthritis Foundation, studies show that knee and hip replacement surgery patients who did pre-hab for six weeks before surgery reduced their odds of needing inpatient rehabilitation by up to 73%. Preparing the body beforehand can lower your chances of experiencing complications like infections and blood clots post-surgery. Pre-hab is essential to having shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery times.

orthopedic surgeon discussing knee surgery and the top 5 mistakes people make after surgery

What Are the Top 5 Mistakes After Knee Replacement?

The top 5 mistakes after knee replacement often occur because many people find it difficult to maintain a good balance between their recovery and work lives. Some people struggle with post-operative pain. It is also not uncommon for people to set unrealistic expectations for their recovery time. Being mindful of these recovery tips and adhering to your surgeon’s recommendations will make your recovery experience better.

1. Not having and following a plan

Planning for a knee replacement should begin several weeks in advance, if possible. This gives you ample time to discuss your health concerns and options with the doctor, schedule the surgery and develop a plan. Remember to plan for daily pre-op exercises. This not only helps you heal better, but also gets you into the habit of exercising.

Line up people to help you after the surgery. You will not be able to drive, meaning someone will need to be with you as you are discharged from the hospital. You will also need someone to help you with daily activities around the house, like cooking, cleaning and possibly bathing for several weeks or months. You might need to modify your home so you can move around with crutches or in a wheelchair. Without a plan, you’re more likely to experience problems during your hospital stay and afterward.

Your plan should be realistic in terms of recovery time. A knee replacement might improve your mobility in the long term, but you’ll probably be less mobile as you start to heal. A reasonable timeframe for a full recovery from a knee replacement is about one year, but you may be able to move around on your own within four to six weeks.

2. Not following physical therapy and recovery exercises

Your participation in physical therapy plays a major role in your recovery. Follow your healthcare provider’s orders as you gradually ramp up your activity level. You might be asked to start with short walks just a day or two after the surgery, gradually increasing your distance as you get more comfortable walking on the leg. Other exercises will probably be added to your regimen. If you fail to participate in post-surgery exercises, you have a greater chance of experiencing joint stiffness. Inactivity can also contribute to a higher likelihood of blood clots.

3. Not dealing with pain and swelling

Pain medication, when taken correctly, makes the recovery process much easier after a knee replacement. However, these medicines often come with a risk of addiction, so it’s important to be careful and take them exactly as prescribed. Taking too much pain medicine can cause you to overwork your knee. Not taking the medicine as prescribed can lead to pain that discourages you from the movement your recovery requires. Also, remember that medicine is not the only way to treat pain and swelling.

Icing is a great way to reduce swelling and manage pain, if it is done properly. Elevate your leg and apply ice for about 20 to 30 minutes at a time and wait at least an hour in between each icing session. Don’t try to ice your knee all day. Icing the knee for too long hurts the healing process by damaging the surface tissue. It may increase blood flow and cause swelling.

4. Resuming physical activities too soon or going back to work

Balancing your recovery with your work life can be incredibly difficult without proper planning. If possible, arrange for flexible work hours or a temporary reduction in workload to accommodate your rehab needs. The type of work a person does has a big influence on when they can return. Most patients need four to six weeks before they can get back to work. And when they do, they may still have to use some type of assistive walking device and schedule time off for physical therapy exercises.

5. Giving up assistive devices too quickly

Wheelchairs, walkers and crutches can be essential tools after knee replacement surgery. A lot of people don’t mind using them at first, but then stop before they’re fully healed. When they do this, it can lead to major problems with their gait and compensatory patterns, leading to life-long limping. If you want to gain full mobility in your hip, knee and ankle, you shouldn’t rush your recovery. You need to use the recommended assistive devices until your doctor says you can stop.

A full and speedy recovery

When you’re experiencing knee problems, visit the Orthopaedics Department at the Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health. Our highly skilled team of physicians and surgeons specializes in orthopedic services of all types, including total ACL reconstruction, hip resurfacing, spinal fusion and more.

We provide personalized pre-surgery consultations to address your concerns and develop customized treatment plans. During your stay, you’ll benefit from specialized post-operative care, including pain management techniques and physical therapy sessions tailored to promote your recovery. Call us today at 813-979-0440 to schedule an appointment or request an appointment online.

About Ira Guttentag, MD, FACS

Dr. Ira Guttentag is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and is also the Medical Director and Head Team Physician for the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2002. He is an orthopaedic consultant for the Toronto Raptors and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He specializes in performing knee and shoulder reconstruction, ligament reconstruction, meniscus and rotator cuff repairs, and minimally invasive outpatient partial and total knee replacements.

Dr. Guttentag’s goal is to find treatment options that fit each patient’s individual needs. Whether you’re a pro or you exercise just to stay fit, and whether your injury requires non-operative or surgical care, Dr. Guttentag wants to help you get back in the game.


Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine & Spine

About this author.


Ira Guttentag, MD, FACS

Sports Medicine, Knee & Shoulder Reconstruction

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