Recovering from Knee Replacement: What to Expect

Research suggests that joint surgery may have benefits beyond pain relief. It could even extend your life. For example, according to a 2012 study by Exponent, a scientific consulting firm in Menlo Park, California, people with osteoarthritis pain who opted for knee replacements had a 50% lower risk of dying from any cause seven years later than those who didn’t have the surgery. However, even if the surgery makes life better in the long run, what can one expect for the short term? What is the recovery period like?doctor examinging knee

During the first few weeks after surgery, you’re more likely to experience a good recovery if you follow all of your surgeon’s instructions concerning wound care and diet and exercise. Your physical activity program should include:

  • A graduated walking program — first indoors, then outdoors — to gradually increase your mobility
  • Slowly resuming other normal activities, including walking up and down stairs
  • Knee-strengthening exercises performed several times a day

In the time it will take for your knee to initially heal from surgery, you will be dealing with pain, but medications can make the pain manageable.
While in the hospital, you’ll be prescribed activities to prevent blood clots, help your joint heal properly, minimize scar tissue, and strengthen your muscles to support the new joint. Within a few days, you should be able to move well enough to leave the hospital and return home.

Within the first six weeks, physical therapy continues to be important for improving the motion of the knee and allowing for a natural transition back to normal knee movement. Patients who comply with physical therapy exercises tend to recover much faster. The average time for this short-term recovery is 6 to 12 weeks.
Long term recovery involves the complete healing of the surgical wounds and the internal soft tissues involved in the operation. When you are ready to return to work and your normal activities, you are on the way to full term recovery. This phase can last between 3 and 6 months.

Senior couple dancing on veranda
If you are considering knee replacement, contact Dr. Wesley Johnson for a consultation. With more than 20 years performing orthopedic surgery, he can inform you of all your options and set you on the road to new, pain-free knees!

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