One of the most common questions about knee replacement surgery is related to the time it takes to recover. That’s probably because it’s normal to wonder what your mobility will be like after such a major surgery.

 When your knees go bad, whether, from wear and tear or injury, you end up realizing just how important these joints are to your mobility. Knee pain can keep you from performing even the simplest daily tasks. While having major knee surgery to replace the joint typically alleviates your pain, you may wonder how long it will take to return to normal functions. 

What’s it like to have knee surgery at Louisville Hip and Knee Institute, and how far can you go on your new knees? We have answers that may surprise you.

What Is a Knee Replacement?

Knee replacement surgery, also known as total knee arthroplasty, is designed to remove a damaged or worn-out knee from the body and replace it with a new prosthetic knee joint. The most common reason for the surgery is to alleviate the pain from osteoarthritis that many people experience over time. 

 Knee replacement can be total, where both sides of the knee joint are replaced, or partial, where only one side is repaired.

 Each year, more than 600,000 Americans undergo knee replacement. The data shows that 90% of patients who receive knee replacement on one or both knees experience a significant reduction in pain and suffering. Of the patients who undergo knee replacement, 90% still have the same artificial knee going strong more than 15 years later and 82% are still fine 25 years after their surgery.

Why Would I Need a Knee Replacement?

Why Would I Need a Knee Replacement?Knee replacement surgery is indicated usually after trying other non-invasive treatments to alleviate knee pain. When the knee joint is sufficiently damaged or worn, your mobility is lessened, and the pain you’re experiencing won’t let up even when resting, it may be time for knee replacement. 

 Some of the most common reasons for having knee replacement surgery include arthritis and knee injury. Your doctor may consider knee replacement as an option if:

  • Cortisone injections and physical therapy aren’t working
  • Medications don’t help anymore
  • Mobility is so reduced that you’re walking with a cane or walker
  • Pain persists even while sleeping
  • You’re in pain even from everyday tasks like trying to get dressed

Knee replacement is typically considered between the age of 60 and 80. Traditional opinions are changing about what is the right age for knee replacement, though. There is no perfect age for knee replacement, and each case is different.

What’s It Like to Recover from Knee Replacement Surgery?

The rehabilitation period after knee surgery is just as important as the surgery itself. Recovering from knee surgery is a weeks-long process that gradually strengthens the knee and returns you to your normal level of activity. The 12 weeks after surgery are critically important to regain your mobility, and your recovery begins the very day your surgery is complete.

A typical timeline for recovery after knee replacement looks something like this:

Day 1. After you’ve recovered from the anesthetic, your physical therapist will help you stand up and walk slowly by using an assistance device.

Day 2. You may walk for brief periods with the aid of an assisted device. You’ll work during this time on flexing the knee as much as possible.

Week 1. You should be able to bend your knee by 90 degrees, although the pain and swelling may make this comfortable. You’ll start to bathe, dress, and use the toilet on your own and likely change your own bandages, although you may still require the help of a caregiver.

Weeks 2 – 3. You’ll start work with a physical therapist. You will have a daily work schedule to keep the knee mobile. You will likely use a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine that keeps the joint slowly moving while preventing the buildup of scar tissue and stiffness. During this time, your healthcare team will work closely with you to rehabilitate the joint safely. 

Weeks 4 – 6. By this time, if you’ve stuck to your rehabilitation and exercise schedule, you should begin to see dramatic improvements. Your strength and flexibility should improve. The surgery swelling, bruising, and inflammation should also be much better. These are the weeks, typically, when you can start to go on longer walks, eventually, without the aid of your assistive canes, walkers, or crutches. You should also be able to return to working and driving, as long as you have a desk job. If your job requires lifting or standing for long periods, it could take up to three months before you are medically cleared.

Weeks 7 – 11. Physical therapy will continue, consisting of all kinds of exercises to regain stability, strength, and function. You’ll likely ride a stationary bike and even use a leg weight machine. You may even be cleared for swimming, bicycling, and more strenuous walking. 

Weeks 12 and beyond. You still won’t be cleared for higher-intensity exercises, such as running, basketball, or aerobics. Many people can resume activities like golf. As the weeks progress, you will keep improving, the pain will continue to lessen, and you’ll get back to normal life.

How Far Should I Walk After Knee Replacement Surgery?

How Far Should I Walk After Knee Replacement Surgery?The answer to this question depends on you. Most patients are able to walk out of the surgery center with the assistance of a device such as crutches or a walker. It makes sense that you want to get back on your feet as soon as you can, but you also need to be careful not to overdo it. Too much strain and you’ll have more pain than necessary. 

Fortunately, your physical therapist and healthcare team are standing by to help determine what is right for you. Usually, about three weeks after the surgery, you’ll be able to walk without crutches for about 10 minutes. Your physical therapist will push you to add more to your regimen. Generally, it takes about a year for everything to settle, the knee to regain its strength, and all normal activities to become possible again. 

 At Louisville Hip & Knee Institute, we are devoted to helping you heal. We provide state-of-the-art orthopedic treatment, including knee replacement surgery for our patients. If you’re struggling with knee pain, help is just a few clicks away.

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