Most people will experience an improved quality of life after a total knee replacement. They report less pain. They can move more easily. That’s the good part.
The hard part may be the concerns and questions you have about your recovery:
- How long will it take to recover from the surgery?
- What can I do after surgery?
- How can I make sure that my recovery is successful?
- Where can I get help during my recovery?
The key to achieving the results you need from a knee replacement is to have a well thought out plan for your recovery and rehabilitation. Know what you need to do and how you are going to do it. Then go for it!
Your Week by Week Knee Replacement Recovery Guide
The first 12 weeks following your surgery are vital for your healing. These first weeks set the tone for your recovery. Most people can expect to feel fully recovered after a year.
Here’s a brief overview of what to expect as you recover.
Typically, you will be discharged home one to five days after surgery. You will be expected to stand and sit without assistance and be able to walk using a walker or crutches.
You may need help at home with:
- Meal preparation
- Doing exercises
- Doctor’s appointments
At this point, you will most likely notice a marked improvement in your ability to bend your knee as well as increased strength. Your physical therapist may give you harder exercises and work with you to walk without crutches or a walker.
This is usually the point where you start to feel like yourself again. You may start to be able to do activities like cooking, cleaning, and going out. Most people will not have yet returned to work or be able to drive.
You may still need help with:
- Driving to appointments
- Picking up groceries
Once you’ve made it to week seven, you will probably feel like you are ready to return to normal. You may be able to walk on your own and start doing more physically demanding jobs like housekeeping, driving, and shopping. At this point your most crucial task is to stick to your exercise and rehab plan. This will continue to build your strength.
You may benefit from help with:
- Sticking to your exercise plan
- Regular visits from a professional caregiver to keep you motivated
4 Tips for a Successful Knee Replacement Recovery at Home
A successful recovery takes time and it will take continued effort. The recovery process can end up taking months. Having caregivers set up to help you with everyday activities may reduce stress for you and your family members.
Here are the top 4 tips for a speedy recovery at home:
1. Stay Safe
A fall during your recovery can drastically lengthen your recovery time. Plan for safety first. Before your surgery, make sure to prevent falls by making the proper household modifications. Have someone help you with:
- Setting up a comfortable living space on the main floor
- Installing safety bars in the shower or bath (and/or a shower chair or bench)
- Clearing stairways and making sure rails are secure
- Putting on a raised toilet seat
- Arranging a stable chair with a firm seat you can get out of easily
- Removing loose rugs and cords that could be tripping hazard
A professional caregiver can help you with a ride home from the hospital. They can make sure you are settled in at home and have everything you need at easy reach.
2. Manage Pain and Infection
You will most likely still be taking pain management when you get home. It is important to stay on track with your pain medications as well as necessary antibiotics or stool softeners. When your pain is well managed, you can move more comfortably. Regular movement and sticking to your exercises will help you recover more successfully.
A professional caregiver can help you with:
- Picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy
- Reminders for when to take medications
- Watching for signs of infection
3. Eat Well
A healthy diet gives your body the energy it needs to recover. Eating well following surgery can be difficult as you have many things that need to get done in a day. You might not have the time or energy to prepare fresh meals as you may be moving slower than usual.
A professional caregiver can help you with:
- Grocery shopping
- Preparing meals
4. Get Moving
Once you are at home you want to keep moving. Remember that you are trying to strike a balance between staying active and not pushing yourself too hard. There will be both good days and bad days as you recover. Each day you should notice that your exercises are getting a little easier.
A professional caregiver can help you by:
- Going for walks together
- Following the exercises prescribed by your physical therapist
- Doing household chores together with you
Knee Replacement Recovery Exercises
Your exercise plan will be specific to your recovery. You might benefit from exercises such as these.
Toe and heel raises: 8-10 reps.
- Stand with a hand on the wall or handrail, raise up on your toes and then sink back down to a flat foot.
- Next slowly roll back on your heel and then back to a flat foot.
- Start low and increase as you practice.
Partial knee bends: 8-10 reps.
This exercise involves pretending to sit and rise from a chair.
- Stand with a sturdy chair behind your knees.
- Lower yourself as if you were sitting down, and before your bottom reaches the chair seat, rise back up to a standing position.
A professional caregiver can assist you with:
- Providing motivation
- Helping you to do the exercises correctly
- Concerns about safety while exercising
Many people will find that after a knee replacement they enjoy relief from constant knee pain, better ability to move around, and an overall better quality of life. Putting in the effort and getting the help you need for the first year of recovery can help you enjoy your new knee for the next 15 years and beyond