If knee arthritis is interfering with your mobility and you’ve reached the point where medications and physical therapy are no longer keeping your pain at bay, you might be considering a knee replacement. In recent years, groundbreaking advances in surgical techniques and technologies have greatly reduced the need for a long hospital stay, extended bed rest, and narcotics-based pain relievers for many patients. Even so, you’re probably wondering what the general recovery time for knee replacement looks like.
Many factors can impact the pace and ease of your knee replacement recovery, but perhaps none as much as your overall health and activity level before your surgery. Healthy, active people tend to recover from surgery more quickly than their sedentary counterparts.
Your Knee Replacement Recovery Will Begin Immediately in the Hospital
Your rehabilitative physical therapy will begin on the same day as your knee replacement surgery. Your health care team will start you out with something simple, such as dangling your feet over the edge of your bed, then help you gradually progress to standing, walking, and performing other daily activities that you’ll need to do once you are home. Unlike the knee replacement recovery plans of yesteryear, which primarily focused on bedrest, today’s physical therapy emphasizes movement to help restore joint function as quickly as possible.
Your Knee Replacement Recovery Will Continue at Home
The next phase of your knee replacement recovery will take place at your home, where you’ll begin to resume your normal activities, such as getting up and sitting down, moving between rooms, and using the bathroom. Your health care team may suggest an at-home regimen of walking and other exercises, or you may participate in a formal outpatient physical therapy program. Also, effective pain management can pave the way for a faster recovery, mainly because you are unlikely to progress well with physical therapy if you are experiencing significant discomfort.
Assistive Walking Devices
Initially, you’ll use a walker after your surgery for stability and to allow your knee replacement and soft tissues to heal appropriately. You’ll then transition to a walking stick or cane for continued stability. Your pain and stiffness will gradually subside, and after approximately six weeks, you should begin to feel more secure walking and more comfortable bending and straightening your knee.
Your health care team can address your individual driving needs after surgery. If you drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission, a left knee replacement will hinder you less than a right knee replacement. Therefore, in the latter case, you’ll need to wait longer. Also, you’ll need to discontinue taking all narcotic pain medications prior to getting back behind the wheel.
Your return-to-work timeframe will largely depend on your occupation and job duties. If you have a desk job that allows you to sit comfortably throughout the day, you may be able to return to work within a few weeks. On the other hand, if your job requires you to be on your feet for extended periods of time, you will need to wait longer before you go back to work.
The final phase of your knee replacement recovery will involve returning to regular exercise and other physical activities, such as cycling, hiking, and gardening. Many patients reach this phase within a few months, although it can take up to a year or longer to regain full knee function.
Questions? Talk With a Board-Certified Orthopedic Knee Surgeon
Peter D. Vizzi, MD, a board-certified orthopedic knee surgeon who practices in Lafayette, LA, can help you prepare for your knee replacement surgery and understand what you can expect during your recovery. If you’d like to consult with Dr. Vizzi, contact his office today to request an appointment.
Schedule an appointment to discuss your knee replacement recovery timeline.