Returning to your everyday activities takes time after knee replacement, but your active participation in the healing process can help you get there sooner and enjoy a better outcome. So the question then becomes: what to expect after knee replacement surgery and how can you expedite the healing process?
Recovery and rehabilitation from knee replacement starts almost as soon as you wake up from surgery. Using your new knee right away is critical to a good outcome. Your surgeon will probably encourage you to be up and walking with the help of a walker or other assistive device within 24 hours of surgery. You can expect to use a cane – or nothing at all – two to three weeks after surgery.
While recovery from outpatient knee replacement is generally the same as recuperating from surgery in a hospital, there are some differences. One of the main differences is the amount of time you will stay at a medical facility – just a few hours at the outpatient clinic versus 1 to 4 days at a hospital. This shorter stay at an outpatient clinic allows you to spend more of your recovery at home. Staying at a hospital during the early days of recovery, on the other hand, is helpful in that nurses, physical therapists and other medical professionals are always nearby in case you have pain or other complications.
Treatment for pain after knee replacement has come a long way in recent years. Use of regional nerve blocks, spinal blocks, and other techniques make knee replacement surgery less painful. While each person’s recovery timeline is different, starting range of motion exercises and other rehabilitation protocols immediately after surgery reduce stiffness and pain.
What to Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery
You can expect to return to most of your normal activities within three months of surgery. Your long-term recovery time depends largely on your health before surgery, additional medical problems and your personal expectations.
Some may require outpatient physical therapy after knee replacement surgery. Physical therapy rarely lasts longer than three months, according to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, but the total length of your physical therapy depends on your condition before surgery, general health and personal motivation.
If you drive, your surgeon will help you determine when it is safe to return to driving after surgery. You might be back in the driver’s seat sooner if you had surgery on your left leg. Research suggests reaction time is slower for several weeks after knee replacement surgery.
Depending on your health and physical demands of your job, your surgeon will work with you determine when you can return to work. You may have to wait up to three months before returning to work if you job requires lifting, travel, or other physically strenuous activities.
You should avoid certain activities, such as running and jumping, immediately after knee replacement surgery.
Knowing what to expect after knee replacement can improve your recovery and optimize the success of the procedure. Ask your surgeon and healthcare team for more information on what you can expect after knee surgery.
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