Category: Recovery

Average Recovery Time For Knee Replacement

recovery photo

After having knee surgery, it’s normal to have a lot of questions. “Why can’t I lift my leg?”, “How am I supposed to use the bathroom?”, “Is this amount of pain normal?”,  and last but certainly not least, “What’s the average recovery time for knee replacement surgery?”etc.

Before you say anything realize this: It’s normal for anyone that’s uncomfortable or in a bit of distress to want to get out of it as soon as possible. You’re not the only one who’s had these questions or similar ones. It happens with most anyone after they’ve had a knee (or two!) replaced.

I have personally asked people who have recently gone through the surgery “What’s the one question you have about your rehab program?”

What’s The Timeline For Total Knee Recovery

The answer they give more than any other is they want to have a better understanding of the knee replacement recovery timeline. It seems that during the whole process that this bit of information has either been forgotten or lost site of.

That’s probably because it wasn’t adequately emphasized during the build up to the knee replacement surgery date. When you’re getting ready to undergo a major surgery like this, there is a lot of preparation that your doctors and you have to go through.

The long and the short of it is that people really want to know what to expect after having a total knee. They want to get back to their lives. They have stuff that need’s doing and they can’t remember if anyone has said exactly how long is recovery after knee replacement surgery.

There is no ball park answer to recovery time. But, for a lot of people about 3-4 months is usually when they start feeling really confident about their abilities. But, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be totally healed by this time. Many doctors say 6 months to a year.

Many people, after getting a tkr, don’t realize that their muscles are going to be very weak after being down for several months. It takes time to heal, and then build strength, and them place demands on the repaired leg. Keep in mind, it is a major surgery.

How Long Will It Take To Get Better After TKR

And, your recovery time is also dependent on how well you heal, if you have any co-morbidities like diabetes, obesity, heart problems, etc. If you have other things that will slow you down or affect your healing process, then you may take a little longer than they next person to get back in the saddle.

TimeLine Example

Week 1-3
You’re usually discharged to home within the first week of surgery. And, you’re going to feel pretty useless during the first couple of weeks after surgery. But work on your range of motion and keeping your swelling down by elevating and using a good ice pack.

STAY AHEAD OF YOUR PAIN! By taking your pain meds routinely and using ice.

By about the end of week 2 you’ll be walking pretty well but still using the walker. You’re going to still need to really focus on your bending and straightening.

At the end of week 3 you’ll probably start feeling a lot better about yourself and see some light at the end of the tunnel. Your leg will still be stiff but it won’t hurt as much and you’ll be able to move it around better.

Week 4-6
This is when the inflammatory process starts to wind down. Having gotten the staples removed and with the swelling diminished, you should start seeing good gains in range of motion. That is if you’ve been diligent with your exercise routine.

You will probably start forgetting to use your walker and find that you’re pushing your limits a little too much. You’ll know this because you’re going to find that you “over do it” and have to spend time recovering.

Week 7-12
Now you’re probably really feeling a little more “frisky”. However, just because you feel this way does not mean that you and your knee are “ready to get back in the game”.

This is a critical time that you really need to be careful. You’re going to feel like doing a lot more physical activity and feel as though you’re a super hero. But, you’re still not out of the woods. Your body is still recovering from the trauma of the surgery.

Getting some insight from your outpatient physical therapist at this time is a good idea. Progress slowly in the amount of activity that you want to do and remember, high impact things like jogging or playing tennis are things that should be avoided.

How To Best Recover From Knee Replacement Surgery

The best thing to do to ensure a swift and speedy recovery is to follow your doctor’s recommendations and those of any other health care professional you’re working with.

Get into a daily routine of working on your range of motion and managing your swelling. Rest so that your operated leg is not constantly irritated and inflamed.

Make sure that you’re diet and water intake is good enough to nourish your body and supply it with all the healing nutrients you need.

And, be patient.

Nature may seem like it’s taking ages to do it’s job. But, that’s just because we don’t understand all the things that are going on behind the scenes. Trust that your body knows what it’s doing and things will probably turn out just fine.

Continue Reading

Recovery from knee replacement surgery: what to focus on first.

This particular article is for anyone who has recently had a total knee replacement.
When you’re discharged from the hospital after a surgery the doctors and nurses generally load you up with lots of instructions and lots of paperwork and send you on your way.

Don’t feel bad if you feel overwhelmed and a little confused by the time you get home. That amount of information in a very short period of time frequently leaves people in the dark about what is supposed to happen when they get home.

For anyone who has recently had a knee replacement surgery, from a physical therapy standpoint, there are only two things you really need to be concerned about. And there are three things that you really need to focus on doing.

Your home health nurse can especially help you with the two things you need to be concerned about. They are number one, preventing and infection, and number two, preventing a blood clot or DVT.

the three things you need to focus on doing after a knee replacement surgery are bending the leg, straightening the leg, and elevating the leg to manage your swelling.

It’s really that simple from a physical therapy standpoint. This is because the only thing that really does not return without a lot of effort after a knee replacement surgery is your range of motion.

Your ability to walk will return on its own. The ability to lift your leg will return on its own. The ability to get up and down from a chair, or get in and out of the bed, will return on their own.

But what makes all of these activities a lot easier to do, is having good range of motion in the surgical knee.

This is just as important for those who had their knee replacement some time ago. If you’re still not able to bend your knee or straighten your knee it’s a lot more difficult to move around.

So what should you be focusing on?

For knee flexion really focus on any activity that allows you to stretch the knee into flexion. This could be the heel slide. Or it could be something as aggressive as standing up and sitting down from a chair with your knees bent. If you try to do this last movement please make sure that you’re not trying to put all your weight on your leg.

In order to straighten your leg, the exercise you want to focus on is the hamstring stretch or the calf stretch. Both of these movements can be done either in sitting or lying down on the bed. Or with the calf stretch you can do that when you’re standing up. I have written a previous blog post about that with a photo.

So just remember for those of you who have recently gotten out of the hospital and are a little confused with what to do next, the emphasis should really be on preventing infection as well as blood clots or DVD.

And also you should be emphasizing bending your leg, straightening your leg, and elevating your leg.

If you number that mild that’s really only five things that you really need to think about and focus on in order to have good recovery from a total knee replacement.

Continue Reading

Focus On How You’re Walking

walking photo

Getting off the Walker is a milestone that a lot of total knee patients want to hit sooner rather than later.
But I usually tell people don’t be in such a rush to abandon your walker just yet.
What you’re really interested in doing with the Walker, is improving the quality of how you walk. Not just how far you can walk.
When using your Walker, the emphasis should be on practicing how you walk. Or, practicing how to walk normally. Your surgical leg should be doing the same thing your good leg is doing.
This may be hard for some because there may be pain, or your range of motion may still be limited.
But one of the biggest problems that people have is overcoming bad habits of walking.
People who have had a total knee replacement generally have had pain in their need for a long time. And that leg has become weak and the muscles have become tight. This has caused people to walk with a limp or basically compensate how they walk even before they had their surgeries.
So it is important for anyone who has had a knee replacement to understand that not only are you overcoming the pain and soreness from the surgery, you’re also trying to overcome the bad habits that you developed previously before the surgery.
Here is a tip: make sure that your Surgical knee is as straight as possible when standing on it. This takes place when you are stepping forward with your non surgical leg.
To do this you may have to put more weight on your arms when you’re using your Walker. But it’s important to learn how to straighten your surgical knee and to bear weight on it.
This is necessary in order to have a normal gait cycle or walking pattern.
If you have trouble straightening your surgical Knee, then you may have to spend more time working on your extension range of motion.
The exercises that work on your knee extension are they standing calf stretch and the hamstring stretch and the passive knee extension. You can do this easily with a stretching strap.
So keep this in mind if you are one of those who are trying to get off the water as soon as possible. It may be more beneficial to stay on the water longer and practice how you walk. This will help you a lot more in the long run.

Continue Reading

Pain In Knee After Knee Replacement Surgery

Yes, it’s normal to have pain in your knee after having knee replacement surgery. But, the questions that many people have are similar to “How much pain is normal?” and “How long does it last?”

To answer the first question, take a look at this knee replacement video and it sort of gives you a good idea of what takes place and why you have as much pain as you do.

Having your knee joint removed and then replaced with “after market parts” is a major and traumatic procedure!

So, yes it’s normal to have pain. But some say that the pain, although intense, is different than the arthritis pain that they had prior to surgery. Whereas the pain from an arthritic joint is “sharp and intense” (and will just get worse over time), the pain after having a joint replacement is more “tight and throbbing” and usually subsides over time.

“But I have pain in my knee replacement a year after my surgery. Why doesn’t it go away?”

If you’re still having pain months after you’ve had joint replacement surgery there could be a couple (or more) things that may be going on.

If you fit into the above category, then you’ve probably already been to see the surgeon (and any other doctor you can) to have the knee checked out. Many times the doctor will take an xray or a CT scan to see if everything looks good at the joint level. Depending on what your knee replacement is made of your doctor may (emphasis on may) order an MRI.

In many cases the knee components are in alignment and their doctor may say “everything looks good. Give it more time”. This may frustrate people that are in pain because they think the doctor believes their making things up or just complaining.

In all honesty, it’s not that the doctor doesn’t believe you. It’s just that when they look at the x-ray, there is no obvious problem that jumps out at them and there’s no clear indication of what can be done to relieve the pain. They don’t want to open you up and then not find anything to do with you.

What Could Be Causing Pain After Knee Replacement Surgery?

One of the most common problems with pain after knee replacement surgery is plain old muscle pain. You can get muscle pain from having a combination of weak and tight muscles.

In a lot of cases, patients who’ve had knee replacements go thru the initial basic range of motion exercises right after surgery. But, after they have their range of motion back and find that they can get up and move around without much debility, they get on with everyday life and cut the rehab exercising short.

Because of this their quads are generally still relatively weak (along with their hip abductors) and the knee flexor hamstrings and calf muscles are relatively tight.

Having weak quads and tight knee flexors (not to mention a tight ITB – iliotibial band) can lead to over use syndromes and continued knee pain.

It’s important to have your therapist set you up on an independent rehab program for advanced knee replacement exercises. This program should be complete with goals and time frames once you’re discharged from physical therapy services. This is especially true if you’re going back to a relatively sedentary lifestyle at work behind a desk or sitting in a car (or anywhere) for long periods of time.

I’m Pretty Active And I Still Have Pain A Year After Surgery

If you’re one of those that have really been diligent with your exercises and have honestly tried to get back into an active lifestyle but you can’t because of your knee pain, you may need to have your doctor think outside the box about your case.

In some cases, people are allergic to or develop allergies to some of the materials that the knee replacement is made of. Your doctor should be able to test for this. And, you can also do some online research about your particular prosthesis.

The hospital should be able to provide you with a copy of your operative report which indicates what type of “knee” you received. Once you have the name of the model and manufacturer, you can do some research online to see if others have had any similar problems.

Another thing that some people run into is that their knee ligaments may be too tight or too loose and this can cause pain too. If this is the case, it generally requires a knee replacement revision surgery. Yep, it’s another surgery, but, in general, the rehab after a revision is a lot easier than the initial surgery.

Recovery From Knee Replacement Surgery Takes Time

Remember, this is a big surgery that’s mostly done on people that typically aren’t that young. The older you get, the longer it takes you to bounce back.

It’s not uncommon for it to take up to a year for you to fully recover from having a knee replacement. So, just because you’re able to get around without using a walker, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your muscles and tissues don’t need further rehab.

It’s very important for you to keep working on your range of motion. Make sure you’re able to extend you knee to it’s fullest limit. Make sure you’re stretching your hamstrings and calf muscles. Not to mention your quads or the muscles that stretch when you’re bending or flexing your knee.

In addition to stretching make sure that all muscles involved are toned and in good condition. You don’t have to do any aggressive weight lifting. But, remember that a weak muscle that’s chronically overused will be painful also.

Work out a plan with your physical therapist. Do some research about the type of knee prosthesis that was used. Cover all your bases. This way, if you aren’t able to get things working right for yourself, you’ll be honestly able to tell your doctor that you’ve tried everything and that you need them to take a closer look at your problem.

Continue Reading

When Can I Drive After A Total Knee Replacement?

vintage car photo

Let’s face it, most people don’t like sitting around rehabing after having a total knee replacement. People get bored just sitting around the house and start going stir crazy.

One thing is for sure, you have plenty of time to think about all the stuff that you really want to be doing (or that needs to be done). And most are anxious to get going.

When Is It Okay To Drive After A Knee Replacement?

Because of this a lot of knee patients have questions about driving after total knee replacement surgery. “Can I drive?”, “When can I start driving?”, “When will I be ready to drive after my knee replacement?”.

The bottom line is that your doctor will let you know when you’re safe to drive because it’s basically his/her doctor’s license on the line if something bad would happen.

Here are a few things that you should think about when the question of driving a care after having a total knee comes up.

  1. A car or truck can become a 2000 pound lethal weapon for the driver if they are not fully capable of controlling it. You can do a lot of damage to yourself and others if you lose control of it.
  2. If you had your right knee repaired, then it really goes without saying that you need to have full control of your right leg (both legs really) to drive.
  3. If you’re still taking narcotic meds for pain relief you’re basically “under the influence” still. Narcotics affect your mental ability and also affect your reaction time.
  4. After any major surgery, your body needs time to recover. Let it recover and let someone else run errands.

The Doctor Will Tell You When Its Safe To Drive

It’s normal to be anxious and want to be independent. However, it may be safer just to have someone else do the driving until your doctor has released you from his/her care and given you the green light to start driving again.

I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear but it’s the truth of the matter.

Patience is a virtue.

Continue Reading