Knee replacement surgery is a common operation that involves replacing a damaged, worn or diseased knee with an artificial joint. Knee replacement surgery is usually necessary when the knee joint is worn or damaged so that your mobility is reduced and you are in continuous debilitating pain.
Recovery time can vary depending on the individual and type of surgery that's been done, so it's important to follow the advice your surgeon gives you on looking after your knee. Now a days, a typical hospital stay following knee replacement surgery lasts two days, although some patients go home the same day as surgery, and some patients may need to stay longer.
Even though hospital stays for knee replacement surgery are shorter than they used to be, getting back on your feet still takes time. When thinking about getting back on your feet, it’s helpful to consider the recovery process in phases, beginning immediately after surgery.
Generally, you'll be helped to stand within 12 to 24 hours after your operation.
Walking with a frame or crutches is encouraged. Most people are able to walk independently with canes after about a week. It's normal to have initial discomfort while walking and exercising, and your legs and feet may be swollen.
During your stay in hospital, a physiotherapist will teach you exercises to help strengthen your knee. You can usually begin these the day after your operation. It's important to follow the physiotherapist's advice to avoid complications or dislocation of your new joint.
The next phase of recovery continues at home, as patients begin to perform normal activities, such as moving around the house, getting up and sitting down, and using the bathroom. While everyone is different, many patients are likely to have similar experiences during the early weeks of recovery.
It’s also a good idea to have family and friends lending a hand throughout your recovery process. Social support affects recovery success.
Your doctor may recommend that you ride a stationary bike. It can help strengthen your leg muscles and improve your knee bending. Swimming is also a good exercise after knee surgery. But don't go in the water until your stitches or staples are removed.
You should be able to stop using your crutches or walker and resume normal activities 6 weeks after surgery. However, it may take up to 3 months for the pain and swelling to settle down. It could take up to a year for any leg swelling to disappear.
Don't rush to get back behind the wheel. You need to have enough range of motion and be free enough of pain so that you can work the pedals without hesitation. You might have to wait 6-8 weeks before you can drive.
When you can return to your job depends on what you do for a living. If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, you may be able to go back as early as a few weeks after your surgery. If you do something that's more physical, it might be several months.
Your doctor may want to see you from time to time for several months or more to monitor your knee replacement. Controlling your weight will help your new knee joint last longer. Your new knee will continue to recover for up to 2 years after your operation. During this time, scar tissue will heal and muscles can be restored by exercise. Over time, you will be able to do most of the things you could do before surgery.
I can imagine how challenging recovering from knee surgery can be for some. At in4MED, we can make this stressful time easier by connecting you to local support systems and being there for you as your trusted health advocates. As always, feel free to connect with me or leave a comment.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
Arthritis Society - Knee replacement surgery https://arthritis.ca/treatment/surgery/knee-replacement-surgery
HealthLink BC - Knee replacement surgery https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/aa14776
How long does it take to recover from total knee replacement surgery? https://bonesmart.org/knee/recovery-total-knee-replacement-surger
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.