Total knee replacement recovery varies from person to person but is generally very positive. People often have lots of questions about the recovery process and if possible, it helps to have those questions answered before you go in for surgery.
Here you will find answers to the most common questions about recovering from the operation to help you understand what to expect and how to make the best recovery.
What is a Total Knee Replacement? It is a surgical procedure to treat arthritis that involves removing the damaged and worn parts of the knee joint (tibia, femur and sometimes patella) and replacing them with a new prosthetic joint made of metal and plastic
What Else Is It Called? A total knee replacement is also known as a TKR, total knee arthroplasty, TKA, total knee joint replacement or total knee surgery.
How Soon Can I Get Up? Your physical therapist will help you to get up on the day of your operation, or the following day. You may need to use crutches or a frame initially when walking but that should only be for a few days
When Can I Go Home? People are usually discharged home 3-5 days after surgery once they can walk independently, get in and out of a car and go up and down steps/stairs (if needed)
When Can I Return To Work? Usually 6-8 weeks after your total knee surgery, depending on what the job entails and how you are progressing through the total knee replacement recovery process. If you have a manual job it might take slightly longer
Is It Common To Have Pain After Knee Replacement Surgery? Yes, it is normal to experience pain after knee surgery for a few weeks as the skin, muscles and bone have been cut and take time to heal. This normally settles down within a few weeks. Your doctor will prescribe pain-relieving medication which should be taken regularly so you can stay on top of the pain. You can find out more in the TKR problems section
What Activities Can I Do? Activities that don’t put too much force through the knee such as walking, swimming and gently cycling are all fine. Start off slowly and gradually increase how much you can do being guided by your knee. Gentle exercise is an important part of total knee replacement recovery as using the leg and strengthening the muscles helps the recovery process
Are There Any Activities I Should Avoid? Anything that places lots of stress on the knee e.g. tennis, badminton, contact sports (such as football, rugby, baseball), squash or racquetball, jumping, squats, skiing, or jogging. Do not do any heavy lifting (more than 40 lb) or weight lifting as this could slow your total knee replacement recovery
Can I Play Golf Again? Yes, but do not wear spiked shoes as they cause the knee to twist too much. You might want to start by only doing half a course and gradually increasing the number of holes so you don't overdo things - often people don't notice any discomfort until the next day so pace yourself
When Can I Have Sex? 4-6 weeks after your total knee surgery
When Can I Do Housework? For the first three months, stick to light chores such as washing up and dusting. Avoid standing for long periods e.g. ironing as it can cause your knee and ankles to swell. After three months you can return to other housework such as hoovering
Will I Set Off Airport Metal Detectors? Knee replacements do not normally set them off, but if they do security may want to see your scar as proof of your operation
How Long Do I Need To Continue My Exercises For? Until you have regained full range of movement of your knee (can fully straighten it and bend it at least 120°), and good strength in the muscles. Even when you have achieved this, it is worth continuing with your exercises 2-3 times weekly to keep your new knee in its best condition.
Regularly doing your exercises is the best way to ensure you make a good total knee replacement recovery. See the knee replacement exercise section for more information
How Do I Know If I’m Overdoing It? A bit of discomfort when doing something doesn’t mean you need to stop, however the discomfort should settle within thirty minutes. If pain continues for more than two hours after stopping the activity, that is a sign you overdid it. Next time reduce the intensity or time you do the activity for. If an activity causes immediate severe pain, stop. Overdoing things is likely to slow down your total knee replacement recovery so listen to your body
How Long Does Total Knee Replacement Recovery Take? Many people find they actually have less pain after surgery as the pain from their arthritis is no longer there. After 6-12 weeks most of the post-op pain should have settled but their can be some residual pain and swelling for up to a year. You will continue to make progress up to two years after your operation
How Long Will The Knee Replacement Last? 85% of knee replacements last at least twenty years
Will The Doctor Keep Seeing Me? Yes, you will usually have follow up out-patient appointments around 6-12 weeks after total knee surgery. You will be seen again after one year and then every five years where they will x-ray the knee to ensure there are no problems. If however you are having problems with your total knee replacement recovery, your doctor and physical therapist will see you more often. Don't be afraid to ask for an appointment if you are at all worried about anything
What Happens If My Knee Replacement Fails? You would undergo a revision knee replacement, which means they repeat the procedure. Revision total knee replacement recovery usually takes longer than after the first operation but people do generally make a good recovery
How Do I Make The Best Total Knee Replacement Recovery? Start your exercises before surgery so you are in the best shape possible, take regular analgesia to stay on top of your pain, follow your exercise program religiously, pace yourself, follow the advice from your doctor/physical therapist and see your doctor if you have any concerns. Don't be afraid to push yourself, but listen to your body.
If you want to know more about what happens during surgery and total knee replacement recovery, visit the sections below: