What to Expect When Recovering From Knee Replacement Surgery

What to Expect When Recovering From Knee Replacement Surgery

Recovering from knee replacement surgery combines self-care and rest with the movement and exercise you need to stay healthy and ensure your best recovery.

Though each person’s recovery proceeds at a different pace, everyone can depend on individualized attention each step of the way when Andrew B. Richardson, MD, performs their knee replacement surgery. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect during your recovery.

Pain management

Recovering from knee replacement surgery requires hard work and diligence in performing post-operative physical therapy.  Our team puts a high priority on appropriately managing your post-operative pain in order to ensure that you are able to focus on your physical therapy and recovery process.

Ensuring that your pain is well managed helps to ensure a rapid recovery process.  Dr. Richardson uses a mutli-modal pain management approach to minimize your post-operative pain while minimizing the need for strong narcotic medications following surgery.  While appropriate pain management you are able to keep moving in order to ed to move to reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and prevent dangerous blood clots.


Our rapid recovery protocol focuses on early mobilization immediately after the surgical procedure.  Our trained medical staff and therapists will help you to get out of bed and start walking within hours of the procedure.  

Our therapy team will teach you how to use your crutches or a walker in order to ensure your safety while you move around. Prior to sending you home, our team will ensure that you can safely walk, know how to go up and down stairs, dress, and use the bathroom.

Rest and nutrition

Though you need to move, we can’t overstate the importance of rest for healing. You may feel energized one minute and fatigued the next. Listen to your body, and rest when needed.

You also need to amp up your nutritional status. Your body goes through an extensive process to regenerate new tissues and heal. That means you need plenty of water, and your body needs more nutrients than normal, including calories, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and essential nutrients.

Your recovery from knee replacement surgery is a good time to think of food as medicine. For example, a lack of protein can slow down or even prevent healing, which affects the stability of your new knee. We can help you create a healthy meal plan or recommend supplements as needed.

First 1-4 weeks after surgery

Exercise starts the same day as your surgical procedure.  Physical therapy outside your home at the therapy office/gym should start within the first 1-2 weeks following surgery.  It is important to follow your home exercise program until you start physical therapy.  It is extremely important to follow your regimen. Skipping exercise is a sure way to slow down your recovery, while overdoing it causes more pain and swelling.

In addition to walking regularly, your exercise regimen begins with stretching and gentle exercises that target the leg muscles supporting your knee joint. As you follow the regimen, you gradually restore knee mobility and strength.

During the first 2-4 weeks, you shouldn’t drive, carry anything heavy, swim, or take baths. However, you can shower immediately following surgery. We talk with you about how to care for the dressing and shower before you go home.

We schedule your first follow-up appointment 1-2 weeks after surgery. After we examine your wound and assess your knee, we design the second phase of your recovery.

Recovery during weeks 4-12

During weeks 4-6, you should experience a dramatic improvement in your pain, mobility, and stamina. Most of the earlier restrictions are lifted, and you can start driving again and return to work — as long as your job doesn’t require intense physical activity.

You will continue physical therapy outside your home for approximately 6 weeks following surgery.  This timeframe is dependent upon the individual.  Once outpatient physical therapy is complete it is important to continue your home exercise regimen. Your exercise program and activity level should gradually ramp up and become more challenging as your pain subsides and strength improves.  You may resume your normal activities as your body allows, most people start returning to low impact activities around 4-8 week post-op.

Recovery after week 12

After week 12, most patients are able to return to higher-impact activities. However, we can’t give you a strict timeline because it depends on the pace of your recovery.  

Variables that factor into the speed of your recovery include your age, your general health before surgery, if you had a minimally invasive procedure, your nutritional status, and whether you followed your exercise regimen.

We work closely with you throughout your recovery, helping you get back to all the activities you enjoy as soon as possible. To learn more about safe, effective total knee replacement procedures, call Andrew B. Richardson, MD, or book an appointment online today.

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