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Recovering After a Total Knee Replacement: What to Expect

Recovering After a Total Knee Replacement: What to Expect

Nearly 800,000 knee replacement surgeries are performed each year in the United States, and that number is expected to grow as the population gets older. Total knee replacement surgery can be a great solution for women and men whose knees have given out due to arthritis or other diseases or injuries.

Today’s knee replacement surgeries rely on state-of-the-art technology, both in the surgical techniques and in the materials that are used. As a result, patient satisfaction following surgery is very high.

Thomas Powell, MD, of Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, is an expert in providing total knee replacement surgery. In this blog, he explains what you can expect during recovery if you're getting this surgery.

First 24-48 hours

Most surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis, which means you’ll be discharged the same day as your procedure. After the first 24 hours, most patients can remove their bandage and take a shower, cleaning the wound gently with soap and water. Gentle washing is important to prevent infection.

You’ll also meet with a physical therapist who will help you use an assistive device, such as a walker, to help you get out of bed. Follow the therapist’s advice regarding the movements you make, and avoid overtiring yourself, and get plenty of rest. 

1-3 weeks following surgery

By this time, your therapy sessions will help you move about more freely and with less postoperative discomfort. Your therapy will continue, with exercises focused on helping you become more active while strengthening your legs and knees.

You’ll be able to walk and stand for longer periods, and daily activities, such as getting dressed or bathing, will be a lot easier. Swelling will continue to decrease, allowing your knee to bend and straighten more. You’ll also be able to exchange your walker for a cane during this time, and you may be able to walk without any assistive devices by this time.

4-6 weeks following surgery

During these weeks, your physical therapy will focus on improving your range of motion and leg strength. You’ll go for longer walks and wean yourself away from your cane if you’re still using one.

You may be able to drive by six weeks, but you should definitely talk to Dr. Powell first. Most patients are able to travel by six weeks, as well. Depending on your job requirements, you might be able to return to work by 4-6 weeks, too. But if your job requires a lot of standing, walking, or lifting, you’ll probably need to wait longer.

7-12 weeks following surgery

During these weeks, the primary focus will be on using physical therapy to continue to strengthen your knee and improve its overall flexibility and function. Stationery bicycling, toe raises, supported squats, and similar exercises will work on strengthening and toning the muscles surrounding your knee as well.

By week 12, you can expect your knee to be almost fully functional, with little to no pain and a full range of movement in the joint. At this point, most people can resume activities, such as bicycling or golf. You’ll still need to avoid high-impact activities that can put a lot of strain on your knee.

Your knee will continue to improve and recover over the following months, with most patients reporting complete recovery between 6-12 months. Your recovery timeline will vary based on your underlying health, your commitment to your therapy plan, and other factors.

Learn more about knee replacement surgery

Knee replacement surgery can be a great solution for people who suffer from chronic knee pain and stiffness that interferes with daily activities, but there are other options, too — especially if your symptoms are less severe. To learn how we can help you relieve your chronic knee pain, call 205-606-5232 or book an appointment online with Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine today.

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