How To Have A Smooth Recovery From A Total Knee Replacement

The arthritis in your knee has made walking unbearable. You have an appointment to have the painful joint replaced with an artificial one. Recovery from total knee surgery takes several weeks to regain full use of your knee. A number of factors will determine how well your recovery progresses. Here are some tips on preparing your home and yourself for a smooth recovery from your upcoming surgery.

Make Your Home More Recovery Friendly

You'll be on crutches when you come home from the hospital. You will use them for several weeks as you regain movement and strength in your knee. Your home may not be the most welcoming place for someone with crutches, so take some time before you go in for your surgery to make it a more pleasant place in which to recover. Get some help to make the following changes in your home:

  • Clear a path through each room wide enough for you and your crutches.
  • Pick up any rugs, cords and other obstacles that could make you trip and fall.
  • Pull out the most used items from your kitchen cabinets and place them on the counter so you won't have to reach up or bend down to access them when you get home.
  • Plan on sleeping on the ground floor for several weeks, if your bedroom is not already there, so you can avoid the stairs. This may mean renting a bed for use on the ground floor of your home.
  • Likewise, if your laundry facilities are not on the ground floor, make arrangements with someone to help with your laundry until you can easily navigate the stairs with your crutches and new knee.

Use Good Pain Management Techniques

You doctor will send you home with prescriptions for one or more pain medications. You will have some pain in your knee for a few weeks as the tissues heal. The pain will fluctuate with your activity level. The way to stay comfortable is to properly manage your pain medication as follows:

  • Take the medication on a regular schedule, even when you currently aren't in a lot of pain.
  • Once you start physical therapy, plan your medication schedule so you take some pain medication before your session.
  • Never try to catch up on any pain medication when you've missed a dose. Wait until the normal time for the next dose.
  • Never take more of a pain medication than prescribed. If you are having more pain, contact your doctor for a different medication.

Have Successful Physical Therapy Sessions

After a few weeks of healing, your doctor will have you begin physical therapy. The therapist will begin by moving your knee through its normal range of motion to stretch out the tense muscles that haven't been used for weeks. You will then start exercises to strengthen the muscles in your knee. There are a few ways to make your physical therapy go well:

  • Remember good medication management around your physical therapy sessions so you won't become too sore during and after each session.
  • Talk with your therapist about ways of minimizing the pain during each session. This may include aquatic physical therapy, which takes the pressure off of the knee as you move it. Hot and cold packs, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may be used to reduce the pain.
  • Set a pace with your physical therapist and never exceed that pace. Be patient as you work with your knee so you don't put too much stress on it. Successful recovery from your knee surgery requires slow incremental progress without overworking your new knee joint.