Knee Replacement Recovery Time: What To Expect

Knee replacement is a surgical procedure in which the bone surfaces are replaced in order to relieve pain and discomfort at the knee joint.

Knee replacement procedures are usually done for patients with severe osteoarthritis or a severe knee injury.

People who undergo knee replacement are eager to get back to how they were before. However, to recover fast from knee replacement, physiotherapy needs to be done. Recovery is usually based on how old the person is and how quickly physiotherapy sessions start after the surgery.


Knee Replacement Recovery Time

First Day

After the surgery is done, surgeons usually suggest physiotherapy immediately to get the patient moving. Starting physiotherapy immediately after the surgery or at least 24 hours after surgery helps to speed up the recovery process.

Second Day

By the second day, physiotherapy should have started, it will be a basic one. Activities like ambulating with a crutch or walker may be done. This is very necessary to ensure the patient makes a full recovery on time.

After Discharge

By the third day, the management team may decide whether to discharge the patient or not- depending on the clinical status. If a discharge is agreed to, the patient is usually given a short appointment for physiotherapy and subsequent check-ups with the surgeon.

By 6-12 weeks, there should be a significant improvement if physiotherapy is well adhered to and the patient should be able to ambulate without much assistance.

Factors That Determine The Recovery Time Of Knee Replacement

knee structure
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There are factors that may affect the recovery time after knee replacement. These are:


1. How Soon Physiotherapy Starts

The earlier physiotherapy starts, the better the recovery time. Physiotherapy should start at least 24 hours after the surgery is performed.

2. How Quickly The Patient Can Progress Through The Exercises

Exercises progress as the patient improves. No two patients are the same. Patient A may do isometric exercises for 1 week and progress to strengthening exercises using weights while Patient B may do isometric exercises for 2 weeks and progress to using weights.

3. Age

It is usually known that younger people recover faster than older people. Younger people tend to be more eager to become independent while older people may take a while to go through the exercises to independence.

4. The Condition Of The Unaffected Leg

If the unaffected leg isn’t fully healthy, it can affect recovery as the unaffected leg may not be strong enough to carry the bodyweight alone. This can affect recovery time as exercises will need to be done on both legs to ensure that there will be even weight shared between the two legs.

Physiotherapy After A Knee Replacement

Physiotherapy management  is very vital to recovering from knee replacement surgery because it helps to:

  • Relieve Pain
  • Reduce swelling
  • Prevent joint stiffness at the knee
  • Prevent muscle weakness

These are what physiotherapists do to help you move about properly with your new knee joint and also achieve the goals listed above:

1. Protection

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In order to avoid any complications that may arise from bearing weight on the affected knee, physiotherapists usually advise the use of a walking aid such as crutches or a walking frame during the first few days of rehabilitation. As you gain confidence in walking with the walking aid, you will be gradually weaned off the walking aids.

Usually, patients do not spend so much time using walking aids. It depends on how old the patient is and how quickly the patient is gotten out of bed. Patients tend to go off walking aids after 3 weeks.

2. Cryotherapy

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This is also known as ice therapy. Ice is used to relieve pain and reduce any form of associated swelling on the operated knee. Ice reduces the flow of blood and any other fluid that causes swelling and also, in the same way, relieves pain by providing a form of numbness at the knee due to differences in temperature between the body and the ice.

3. Positioning

The physiotherapist will encourage you not to always stay in bed but sit out of bed which will encourage knee flexion and helps to strengthen your back in order to avoid complications.

4. Strengthening exercises

While using walking aids, the muscles of the legs need to be strengthened. These exercises may not necessarily cause the knee to move fully but strengthen the muscles needed for bending and straightening the knee.

5. Mobilization Exercises

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Mobilization exercises are basically exercises that strengthen the muscles and also encourage movement at the knee joint. The hip joint also has to be mobilized because it shares the weight distribution with the knee and needs to be strong as well and get used to the knee joint.

These exercises may be painful and difficult at first but will get better with time.

Latest posts by Adekanmi Lipede, M.Sc, MPH (see all)
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