Knee replacement surgery can help restore functionality and reduce pain in knee joints. If you’re going to have knee replacement surgery, you may wonder what the recovery process is going to be like. Here’s what you can expect during your knee replacement recovery.
Walking With an Assistive Device
How much mobility and function you get from your knee replacement has a lot to do with your recovery process. The sooner you can stand and walk, even with the help of an assistive device, the better your overall prognosis. In the 24 hours after your knee replacement surgery, you should expect to work with a physical therapist to stand and walk.
Your physical therapist will teach you how to use an assistive device to safely maneuver yourself around using a walker, cane, or crutches. Additionally, you’ll learn what exercises you need to complete to help strengthen muscles and regain functionality in your knee joint. You might be asked to complete these exercises using your assistive device, a chair, or the side of the bed.
Preparing Your Home
When you recover from a knee replacement, it’s important to evaluate whether your home environment is conducive to the recovery process. Your doctor or occupational therapist may ask questions to create a plan of what needs to be done. Possible questions include, but are not limited to:
- Does your home have stairs? If so, is it possible to stay on the lower level?
- Who will drive you to your follow-up and physical therapy appointments?
- What kind of equipment is needed?
Depending on your answers to these questions, your home environment may require modifications, or your doctor may recommend that you transfer to a rehabilitation facility once you’re discharged from the hospital. Often this decision is made before your knee replacement surgery is scheduled. However, sometimes this changes after surgery.
Using the Stairs
Sooner than most patients expect, they are asked to walk up and down a flight of stairs. This is to help you recover, even if it seems impossible or painful to accomplish. Using the stairs, moving yourself to a chair, and becoming less reliant on assistive devices are all important markers of your knee replacement recovery. Some hospitals may not discharge you unless you are able to complete these physical tests.
During the First Two Months
During the first eight weeks after knee replacement surgery, you’ll continue to attend regular physical therapy appointments to strengthen your leg muscles. Most patients reduce their need for painkillers and typically rely less on assistive devices during this time. Your physical therapist will work with you to wean yourself off any use of assistive devices.
Some patients are able to drive again after four to six weeks. However, this largely depends on your progress. Also, if you are still using narcotic pain medication, your physical therapist or doctors may have you wait to drive until you no longer need the medication.
Depending on the job you have, you’ll likely be allowed to return to your job during this time. If your job is particularly strenuous, it might be recommended that you wait an additional few weeks to return.
Once you return to full employment, it’s still important that you attend your regular physical therapy appointments. Physical therapy will help you continue to recover and protect your new joint over the long term. To schedule an appointment with Manhattan Physical Therapy call (212) 213-3480.