What to Expect After a Knee Replacement
By: Brandi Kinard, PTA
Having a recovery and rehabilitation plan is crucial for overall success following a knee replacement.
Patients are spending less time in the hospital following knee replacements, typically ranging from 0-5 days. Roughly, patients are able to resume most activities within 6 weeks following surgery. General healing and rehabilitation time are typically 3 months, though it can take up to 6 months to a year.
Early performance of exercise is key. Patients should be provided with a list of exercises to begin directly following surgery. Home health or even an inpatient rehabilitation center may be the initial steps for rehabilitation following a hospital stay. Though, a quick introduction to outpatient, more aggressive therapy can assist in a more successful recovery.
During physical therapy, patients should expect to push knee mobility into a range of some discomfort. Leg strengthening exercises will be performed, focusing on retraining and regaining the strength of the thigh muscles (the quadriceps), and supporting the knee during functional activities. Pain medications provided by the surgeon should be taken roughly one hour prior to physical therapy, allowing for better tolerance to the exercises.
Ice packs and elevation are pivotal to reducing knee soreness, pain, and swelling. Be sure to eliminate pillows that may cause a slight bend in the knee during elevation. This can cause a knee bend contracture, leading to deformity and rigidity of the knee, which is often harder to correct.
Be mindful that every patient heals and recovers differently and at different rates. The more work and effort applied to recovery by the patient during the time spent outside of physical therapy, the better of a recovery you will have.