It’s a big deal to decide to have knee replacement surgery, especially when you’re in constant pain or you’re living with reduced mobility. Many people put it off, but when you’re finally ready to have a sturdier, pain-free, mobile knee again, be prepared for several months of recovery. And it goes without saying that a positive attitude can do wonders for your morale as you learn to live with a new knee.
Here at the practice of renowned orthopedic surgeon Struan Coleman, MD, PhD, with convenient locations in Manhattan and Locust Valley, New York, and Philadelphia, Dr. Coleman routinely performs customized full and partial knee replacement surgeries. Here’s what you can expect during your recovery from this life-changing surgery.
Once you’ve scheduled your knee replacement surgery with Dr. Coleman, make a commitment to yourself to take an active role in the rehabilitation process. Physical rehabilitation is crucial to getting you back on your feet and helping you resume your desired active lifestyle.
Rehab after knee surgery begins almost immediately. Within the first 24 hours after surgery, while you’re still in the hospital, you’ll begin standing and walking on your new knee with the help of a walker and physical therapists. They’ll provide you with gentle, muscle-strengthening exercises and guide you through each move so you know how to safely move your knee.
It’s critical to get in and out of bed, take a few steps, and learn how to use the continuous passive motion (CPM) machine, which you’ll also be using at home. The CPM machine keeps your knee moving, even when you’re sitting in bed recovering from surgery. This motion helps prevent stiffness, immobility, and the buildup of scar tissue.
For the next three weeks at home or in a rehabilitation facility, you’ll continue to move more freely, without so much reliance on a walker, crutches, or a cane. You’ll continue your daily regimen of exercises, and the pain will gradually decrease. Dr. Coleman and your physical therapist will give you personal goals to achieve each day or each week, until you’re getting around more comfortably on your new knee.
When you first come home from the hospital or a rehabilitation facility, make it easier on yourself by preparing your home so you can be mobile with a walker or a cane. If you usually take the stairs to get to your apartment, plan to take the elevator until you’re able to walk up several flights of stairs without too much discomfort or assistance.
Additionally, be sure to have a comfortable chair and ottoman where you can rest and elevate your knee.
At 3-6 weeks after surgery, you may be ready to ride a stationary bike to continue building strength and increasing mobility. Your exercises will focus on improving the strength of your quads, hamstrings, and hip muscles. You may even begin wearing ankle weights while you do straight leg lifts.
If you’re in good overall health and you led an active lifestyle before knee surgery, make it your goal to walk without assistance by the end of six weeks.
Don’t be alarmed if you still have swelling and pain around your knee joint during this rehabilitation period. This is normal, especially when you’re working hard to regain mobility and strength. Elevate your knee when you’re not exercising, and apply ice to reduce swelling.
Continue to exercise your knee and work with your physical therapist. At this point along your recovery journey, you may be adding more complicated exercises to your routine. However, you most likely still need to avoid high-impact workouts to avoid pain and stress on your knee.
Swimming, weight training, cycling, and other lower-impact activities might be your best option until Dr. Coleman and your physical therapists give the go-ahead to proceed. Remember to advance at your own recovery rate. Everyone is different, so do what you’re capable of and listen to your body so you know when to rest.
It could take up to a year before you’re completely back to all your regular activities without pain. A typical full recovery from total knee replacement surgery can be anywhere from 3-12 months. If you’re the type of person who gets restless when you can’t participate in your favorite sports, remember to be patient and focus on the positive accomplishments you make each day.
You’ll get there. And your knee will be better than ever.
Are you considering knee replacement surgery? Call or click online to schedule a consultation at one of Dr. Coleman’s three locations.