Getting the news that knee replacement surgery is required for better mobility can be distressing, but it can also be extremely beneficial for extending an independent lifestyle. Knowing what to expect before going into the procedure can also be very helpful. The knee joint is a tricky one, and obviously an integral part of being able to move around freely and easily.
Knee surgery is often advised when chronic pain becomes unbearable, or severe stiffness and inflexibility make movement painful and strenuous. A full knee replacement surgery is generally used a measure of last resort, when other treatment options like corticosteroid injections to relieve pain and inflammation, or pain-relief medications, have proven unsuccessful.
One of the best pieces of advice leading up to a major procedure like this one is to keep expectations reasonable. Trying to do too much too fast can easily result in in reinjury. On the other hand, not taking a diligent approach to rehab exercises is also detrimental to healing. Successful recovery after a knee replacement is generally reliant on good planning and preparation, as well as ensuring you have the support and assistance needed post surgery to regain function of the knee joint.
Steps to a Successful Recovery After Knee Surgery
Designing a sensible and practical rehab program, and then making sure it is adhered to, is an effective approach to the recovery process. The first 3 months after the operation are the most critical, and here is a general idea of what to expect during this vital time period.
Month 1 After Surgery
We’ll start by looking at what is to be expected on the first day after waking up from surgery. The rehabilitation process begins almost immediately as you will be encouraged to get out of bed and walk around with the assistance of a walker or crutches, and the supervision of a physical therapist. This is a crucial exercise to keep the muscles working, and to prevent blood clots, infection, scar tissue accumulation, and stiffness.
Patients are usually discharged after a couple days, and then the transition home is crucial one. To help avoid setbacks and complications it is recommended to have the home prepared for optimal recovery, by removing hazards and reorganizing frequently used items for easy access.
The first month at home will include a steady focus on the rehab program. As the month goes on, you should notice a reduction in pain and an increase in mobility. Pain medication will also be reduced gradually, as will your reliance on an assistive walking device.
Month 2 After Surgery
During the second month after knee replacement surgery you should be able to notice significant progress in mobility and function of your new knee joint. This is typically the period when most people start to ween themselves off the need for an assistive walking device. You will likely be able to go for longer walks over the course of this month and start to ease back into regular routines, including cooking, housekeeping, and low impact activity.
You will likely be able to start driving again around this time, but that is something to definitely check with a healthcare professional about first before doing it.
Month 3 After Surgery
During the last of the critical recovery stage things should start coming together, and falling into place. You should be able to notice a substantial increase in the strength of the knee joint, and considerable reduction in swelling and inflammation. You will also likely be back into your normal daily routines, assuming there have been no serious complications or major setbacks.
You should have enough strength and range of motion to climb stairs without excessive strain or pain. Walks outside without any assistive device are typical at this stage as well. Strength and mobility exercises may be ramped up to work towards a full range of motion, and improved balance and stability. This is the month where your commitment level to the recovery process will start to show. If you have been diligent with your exercise regimen, you are well on your way to successful long term recovery. If you have been negligent with your rehab, you will likely still have along way to go before returning to an independent lifestyle.
This stage is also a dangerous point because as you begin to gain confidence in your new knee joint, it can be tempting to test out just how durable it is with some more high impact physical activity. It is very strongly recommended to stick to the recommended exercise routine, until cleared by your doctor for more intense activity.
Home caregivers can be an excellent resource for assistance and support during the entire healing process.