Knee replacement recovery time will vary slightly for each person, but this is a good guide as to what to expect.
Most people make an excellent recovery after surgery and are up and about very quickly. Gone are the days when people were in hospital for two weeks. Now its up and about straight away and home in just a few days.
Here, we will look at the recovery process after a total knee replacement. If are having or have had one side of your knee replaced, visit the partial knee replacement recovery time section instead to found out how it will be for you.
After total knee replacement surgery you will be able to get out of bed and fully weight bear on your new knee within 24 hours but you may need to use a frame, crutches or sticks for the first few days. You will start your exercises straight away and will progress through the rehab programme as instructed by a physiotherapist.
People are normally discharged from hospital after 3-5 days (sometimes longer) depending on how you are doing. Before you can go home, you will need to be able to:
1) Get in and out of bed by yourself
2) Walk safely with or without crutches/sticks/frame
3) Climb steps and stairs (unless you don’t have any at home)
4) Fully straighten your knee
5) Bend your knee well, preferably at least 90°
Your knee will be sore and swollen after your operation initially but often much less so than before the operation as you will no longer be getting any arthritis pain. As the knee heals, the post-op pain will settle down within a few weeks. You can help reduce the swelling by using Ice and Tubigrip (a special compression bandage).
Wound Care: You must keep the wound clean and dry until the stitches are removed, usually after 7-10 days.
Driving: You can drive after 4-6 weeks, as long as you can perform an emergency stop.
Walking: You will be able to stop using any walking aids such as crutches or sticks as soon as you feel able – usually in a few days, and certainly by 6 weeks.
After about a month you will notice a dramatic improvement in your knee.
Knee replacement recovery time will be impacted by how well you comply with the recommended rehab programme. It is really important to be doing exercises to build up the strength and flexibility around your knee to gain the full benefit of the surgery (see the exercises for knee surgery section).
For 6-8 weeks after surgery:
• Avoid any pivoting (twisting) on your knee
• Avoid kneeling
• Avoid squatting
You will need to continue with your knee replacement rehab programme for at least 3 months after surgery, probably 6 months to get the best result from your knee replacement. You will be able to progress your exercises as your knee gets stronger and more flexible – see the rehab section for more info.
Here is some more guidance relating to specific activities and knee replacement recovery time:
• Many activities/sports can be resumed after 6-12 weeks, for example swimming.
• Some activities should be carried out with care eg golf – don’t wear shoes with spikes
• Some activites are not advised following a total knee replacement as they put too much stress on the new knee joint. These include: jogging, contact sports (eg football and basketball), squash, badminton, jumping and skiing. If you are unsure, discuss things with your doctor.
Pain and swelling can take up to 3 months to settle and knee replacement recovery continues up to 2 years after your operation.
Knee replacement recovery time with vary person to person and may even go up and down. If you want to know more about knee replacement surgery, visit the sections below:
Overview: Including how to tell if you would benefit from surgery
Surgery: What actually happens during the operation
Rehab: Including what you can do to get the best results
Common Problems: A guide to the most common problems associated with knee replacement surgery
Common Questions: Answers to the most frequently asked questions after knee replacements
Partial Knee Replacements: Less invasive surgery where only one side of the knee is replaced
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