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What to Expect When Recovering From Knee Replacement Surgery

When your knee is damaged beyond repair, knee replacement surgery may be your best option for living life more fully and comfortably while staving off additional injuries. Recovering well from the procedure is arguably as important as the procedure itself. 

Our experts at Northland Orthopedics & Sports Medicine are skilled and experienced in performing total and partial knee replacement surgery, using minimally-invasive techniques when possible, and guiding patients through healing and rehabilitation afterward. Read on to learn what you can expect from your road to recovery. 

Immediately after surgery

Your rehabilitation process will begin shortly after you wake up from knee replacement surgery. Within the first two days, a physical therapist will help you stand and start walking with an assistive device, such as a cane, walker, or crutches. 

You’ll also learn to get safely in and out of bed and start doing guided daily exercises. For tasks such as changing the bandage, bathing, getting dressed, and using the bathroom, you’ll have support from an occupational therapist or nurse. 

Before going home, your care team will talk with you about ways to adapt your home environment, as needed, and situtate you with a continuous passive motion machine for use on-site or possibly in your home. This machine helps keep your new knee in motion, guarding against stiffness and scar tissue buildup. 

By discharge, you should be able to: 

Moving forward after knee replacement surgery

Once you’re back at home and over the next several weeks, you’ll gradually gain ease, flexibility, and mobility with your new knee. Meanwhile, post-surgery pain will increasingly reduce. If you stick to your exercise and rehabilitation schedule, you should experience dramatic improvements within 4-6 weeks. 

At this time, your physical therapist might suggest increased activity, such as longer walks, and help you wean off of your assistive device. Many people enjoy a heightened sense of independence at this stage.

Once you reach 7-11 weeks of knee replacement recovery, you may be able to walk a few blocks without a cane, crutches, or walker and better engage in daily activities that take some amount of exertion, such as shopping, cleaning, and driving. 

By this point, you’ll be well on your way to long-term recovery. Don’t let feeling and moving better stop you from sticking to your provided exercise plan, however, as it will remain vital for ongoing success.

Pain after knee replacement surgery

Bruising and swelling are common for up to three months after knee replacement surgery. Often, initial pain stems largely from previous injury and sensitivity made more tender by the procedure. As your surgical wounds heal, you’ll feel better and better. If you experience ongoing severe pain, talk to your doctor, as it may indicate a rare complication. 

Roughly 20% of people who undergo knee replacement surgery develop chronic pain, or pain that lasts for at least three months. Following your rehabilitation plan and staying in contact with your treatment team can go far for preventing and managing these issues.

To learn more, call Northland Orthopedic & Sports Medicine or request an appointment on our website. 

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