If you have significant knee pain and poor mobility that interferes significantly with your quality of life, you might need a knee replacement. This is a common procedure and one of the most successful surgeries, but it’s normal to feel anxious about it.
Knowing what to expect for total knee replacement recovery can soothe some of your surgery anxiety. Recovery isn’t easy, but it’s not as bad as you might think. Talk to your surgeon about whether you are a good candidate for the procedure, how to prepare, and what your recovery will be like.
How to Be Ready at Home
You should be able to walk with some assistance as you leave the hospital or surgery center, but getting around will be difficult. Prepare your home in advance to make recovery easier:
- Move furniture to avoid trip hazards and to accommodate a walker or other assistive device.
- Look for other trip and slip hazards, like loose rugs or electrical cords.
- Set up your sleeping area in a room that is easy to access, for instance if your bedroom is upstairs.
- Set up a comfortable chair with a footrest and items you need where you can spend your early recovery time resting.
- Have wound care items on hand.
- You might also want to install handrails in difficult areas or a raised toilet seat.
Common Knee Surgery Recovery Questions
Many patients undergoing total knee replacement have the same questions. If you need additional answers, or have special circumstances, talk to your surgeon.
Is Total Knee Replacement Pain at Night Normal?
Yes, this is normal for many people. During recovery, you can expect to have some pain in your knee during activities and often at night when trying to sleep. Pain should start to subside and become milder within the first couple of weeks. Talk to your doctor about medications and pain management if it does not.
Is Bruising Normal?
What appears to be severe bruising after total knee replacement is normal. You might have a lot of bruising, not just around the knee, but on the thigh, down the calf, and even in the ankle or foot. This occurs because of bleeding in the leg, but it should gradually go away as the body absorbs the blood.
Are Exercises OK After Total Knee Replacement?
Your surgeon can give you a timeline for what you can do and when during your recovery. Gradually increasing activity level and intensity is important for recovery but avoid doing anything too strenuous until you have reached full recovery.
Within a few days of surgery, you can begin light activities recommended by your surgeon or physical therapist. Gradually walk longer distances and engage in approved, low-impact activities. You will need to build up to more intense exercise, but generally, being active is better for your knee than being sedentary. In fact, it’s best not to sit for extended periods during recovery.
Can You Wear a Knee Brace After Total Knee Replacement?
If you have relied on a knee brace for pain relief and joint stability leading up to your surgery, you might feel tempted to wear it after the procedure. Follow your surgeon’s advice regarding this. A brace could actually hinder your recovery by limiting flexibility, range of motion, and strength in and around the joint.
How Long Should Recovery Take?
Recovery times vary by individual. Your surgeon can give you the best idea of what your recovery will be like. In general, you should be able to get back to normal, daily activities within three to six weeks. Expect it to take at least a few months for the swelling and pain from surgery to subside.
Some activities require longer recovery periods, and it’s important to be realistic. For instance, it could take more than six weeks to be able to drive again, as you will need to be able to bend your leg to get in and out of a vehicle. Talk to your surgeon about when you can start doing more strenuous activities or walking longer distances.
What Are Potential Complications of Knee Replacement Surgery?
Total knee replacement is a common surgery with minimal risks. However, any major surgery comes with risks of complications. Be aware of these and talk to your surgeon if you experience any troubling signs during recovery:
- Blood clot
- Nerve or blood vessel damage
- Ongoing pain
- Slow wound healing, bleeding
- Allergic reaction to the artificial joint materials
- Residual swelling and stiffness
Rarely, some patients experience failures in the artificial joint. It may come loose, for instance, and cause joint instability, pain, and swelling.
Joint replacement surgeries are generally safe and help many people get relief from pain and limited mobility. Request an appointment online to talk to one of our joint specialists about a total knee replacement.