Dos and Don’ts Following Knee Replacement Surgery

If you’re going to have a knee replacement, it’s understandable to experience some anxiety about the
process. But knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you can take control of your healing. Here
are some helpful dos and don’ts post-knee replacement surgery.

Get moving: Do your prescribed exercises

The first 12 weeks after surgery require some hard work involving knee exercises that present some
discomfort. Using your new knee is critical so the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around it don’t freeze
up. Have you heard the saying, “If you want to be able to move, you’ve got to keep moving?” That’s the adage
to keep in mind after having a knee replacement.

Do elevate your leg and use ice

Some swelling is normal for three months or more following knee replacement surgery. Keep your leg
elevated, and use an ice pack as directed to help control the swelling. Your doctor may also suggest
compression stockings.

Do follow your physical therapist’s instructions

You can expect to start moving by the end of the first day following surgery. You start working with a
physical therapist who helps you stand and walk using a walker within the first 24 hours, explaining how you
should maneuver to get in and out of bed and a chair.

Your therapist shows you how to put your leg in a continuous passive motion machine in your hospital room;
the machine moves your knee very gently through flexing and straightening that helps it strengthen and heal.
You may continue using it at home for as long as your doctor prescribes it.

Working with your physical therapist, you should meet these goals by the time you’re ready to go home from
the hospital:

  • Bend your knee fairly well, to a minimum 90-degree angle, so you can go from a
    sitting to a standing position
  • Dress and bathe yourself
  • Use a walker or cane as prescribed
  • Get in and out of bed and to the bathroom using a walker or cane
  • Go up and down some stairs using an assistive device

At home, do the exercises prescribed by your physical therapist every day. By the end of the third week,
you may be able to transition to using a cane if you haven’t done so already.

Do your exercises for several months. Full recovery takes anywhere from three to six months and up to a
year. If you’re diligent in doing your exercises and in using your knee (but not overdoing it), you can
enjoy a faster and fuller recovery.

Do follow your doctor’s instructions on caring for the wound

To avoid post-op infection, be sure you understand how and when to change your bandage. If the skin around
the wound becomes red or drains, or if you develop a fever and chills, call your doctor right away. To avoid
complications of a clot, call your doctor if your leg is tender, swells unduly below or above the knee, or
if you develop pain in your leg or calf.

Do eat a healthy diet

Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. However, avoid alcohol after surgery because it retards
healing. Eat whole, unprocessed foods rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Keeping yourself at a healthy weight limits the stress on your knees. If you were overweight before your
surgery, try a medically supervised weight loss plan to help you lose the weight and keep it off.

Don’ts following knee replacement surgery

Taking proper precautions after major surgery helps ensure a good recovery. Following are some things you
should avoid after undergoing knee replacement surgery.

While in the hospital, don’t try to get out of bed by yourself. Accept help, and take the time to properly
learn how to use a walker or cane.

When at home:

  • Don’t skip any of your exercises
  • Don’t step on slippery floors without non-skid socks or shoes
  • Don’t sit on soft sofas or chairs that you sink down into
  • Don’t forget to use your walker or cane as prescribed
  • Don’t get up at night without a nightlight on
  • Don’t drive when on narcotics for pain
  • Don’t start driving until your doctor gives you the green light

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