A nice pair of knees

Life After Knee Replacement: What to Expect

If your knee has been severely damaged by arthritis or an injury and it’s causing you pain, you may need a knee replacement. Fortunately, knee replacements can be very beneficial and improve your quality of life, but it takes some time to adjust to it once the surgery is over. Here is a look at what to expect after knee replacement surgery.

Initial Recovery

Immediately following surgery, you will most likely begin physical therapy, which can be done at your home. After knee replacement surgery, if you are strong enough, therapy may be moved to a physical therapy center. At first, as you get used to the new replacement, you may have some movement restrictions. Usually, it will take a few months before you can return to your old activities. Full recovery will take 6 months to 1 year. 

Staying Active

It is important to exercise and stay active during recovery and beyond. While in the hospital following your knee replacement surgery, you will work with a physical therapist who will teach you how to walk using a cane or walker. You will need assistance for the first few weeks, but by the third week you should be able to walk without assistance. 

During the first year, you will gradually regain strength and flexibility in your knee as long as your follow you exercise program designed by your physical therapist. Staying active can help with your progress and improvement.

Limitations After Surgery

Although a knee replacement can improve your quality of life in several ways, you should not expect it to function exactly the same as your old knee. For example, it will not bend as much as your natural knee, and activities, such as kneeling, can be more difficult after knee replacement surgery.

You should avoid high-impact activities, such as skiing, running, jogging, and contact sports. The reason it is recommended that you avoid these sports is because you can damage or break your artificial knee. High-impact activities cause wear on your implant and place you at increased risk for artificial joint failure.

Symptoms to Expect

Swelling and achiness are common symptoms that you may experience after knee replacement surgery and can be triggered by certain activities. Stiffness at the beginning of exercise or afterwards is also normal.

If you experience a hot sensation around the knee, apply an ice pack and take over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol or iBuprofen, to relieve inflammation or pain you are having. Overall, staying active can help with your strength, flexibility, and endurance. Exercise also builds bone mass, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, and helps your bone and implant form a strong bond.

Last Updated: April 17, 2017