What to Expect When Recovering from Knee Replacement Surgery

Whether you’re an athlete, someone who enjoys an active leisure lifestyle, or you simply want to walk your dog every day without pain, knee replacement surgery can help you get your life back. When the time is right for you to replace an injured or diseased knee for a new, functional one, Dr. Jeremy Woodson, an expert orthopedic sports medicine surgeon in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and his highly qualified team are here to guide you through the entire process. 

Here’s what to expect during your recovery from knee replacement surgery.

Physical therapy is crucial to your return to an active lifestyle

It helps to think of knee replacement surgery as the first step of your journey to a pain-free, more active lifestyle. After you schedule your surgery, make a commitment to take an active role in your rehabilitation in the weeks and months that follow. Physical therapy is essential to getting back on your feet and helping you resume your desired activity level. 

Rehab begins one step at a time

Rehab after knee surgery begins slowly, but almost immediately. It’s important to get in and out of bed that same day, walk a few steps, and learn how to use the continuous passive motion (CPM) machine, which you’ll also be using at home as you start the recovery process.

Within the first 24 hours after surgery, you begin standing and walking on your new knee with the help of a walker and your physical therapist. We start you off with gentle, muscle-strengthening exercises and guide you through each move so you know how to safely take your first steps with your new knee. 

Physical therapy continues at home

After your hospital stay, the CPM machine continues to keep your knee moving, even when you’re sitting down. This motion helps prevent stiffness, immobility, and scar tissue buildup. For roughly the next three weeks, either at home or in a rehab facility, you continue to gain strength and mobility, with less dependence on a walker, crutches, or cane. 

As you continue your daily routine of gentle, strength-building exercises, the pain gradually decreases. Dr. Woodson and your physical therapist give you personal goals to achieve each day and each week, until you can move around more comfortably. 

Prepare your home before surgery

It’s a good idea to prepare your home for your recovery before you go to the hospital for your surgery. That way, when you return with a walker or cane, you can easily move around your living space. Also, you’ll want to be sure to have a comfortable chair and ottoman where you can rest and elevate your knee, so you don’t have to stay in bed.

After surgery: 3-6 weeks

If you’re in good overall health and you led an active lifestyle before knee surgery, it’s a reasonable and attainable goal to be walking without assistance six weeks after your knee replacement. About 3-6 weeks after surgery, you may be ready to ride a stationary bike to continue building strength and increasing mobility. 

The exercises we recommend focus on strengthening your quads, hamstrings, and hip muscles and help with stability, as well. Depending on your progress, you may even begin wearing ankle weights while you do straight leg lifts. 

It’s common to experience some pain and swelling around your knee joint during these first few weeks, so don’t be alarmed or discouraged. To minimize them, elevate your knee when you’re not exercising, and apply ice as needed. 

Continue to exercise: 7-8 weeks

By 7-8 weeks after surgery, you continue to exercise your knee and work with your physical therapist. You may add more complicated exercises to your routine and exercise for longer periods of time. You should still plan to avoid high-impact workouts to avoid putting too much stress on your knee. 

Low-impact exercises like swimming, weight training, and cycling are ideal until Dr. Woodson gives you the go-ahead for more intense workouts. Again, everyone is different, so listen to your body to know when to rest. You want to make steady progress, but you don’t want to injure your knee or create a setback for yourself because you pushed too hard, too soon. 

Long-term recovery after knee replacement surgery

Realistically, it may take up to a year before you’re completely back to all your regular activities without knee pain. A typical full recovery from total knee replacement surgery can be anywhere from 3-12 months, depending on your overall health, activity level, and personal goals. 

Think of your recovery as a marathon rather than a sprint to the finish line. Go at your own pace, and your knee will serve you better than ever. 

The first step of your total knee replacement surgery is a consultation with Dr. Woodson. Call our office at 405-233-3602 to schedule an appointment, or contact us online

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