Whether you’re suffering from knee pain due to degenerative arthritis or “wear and tear,” rheumatoid arthritis, or an old sports injury, you may be considering Knee Replacement Arizona surgery. However, you probably can’t afford to be down for long, so you are probably also wondering how long it takes to recover from this surgery. The answer is that it depends on several factors, but there is a general recovery timeline that most patients of Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates in Pittsburg, PA follow.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From a Knee Replacement?
In general, it will take you about 12 weeks, or three months, to fully recover from a total knee replacement. For this reason, it is recommended that you attempt to alleviate your knee pain using less invasive means prior to opting for surgery. Some suggestions include modifying your activities, using oral medications, and getting lubrication or cortisone injections in your knee to lessen the pain. If these interventions don’t work, there are other minimally-invasive surgical options as well.
There are several minimally-invasive arthroscopic procedures that can repair torn ligaments or cartilage without requiring your knee to be fully replaced. Recovery from arthroscopic procedures usually takes about half the time as a full replacement, but this does vary from patient to patient and is based on the type of damage and repairs necessary. Depending on what you do for a living, you may be able to return to work within a few days to a couple of months.
If you and your doctor decide that a full replacement of your knee is the proper course of treatment for your condition, you can expect a longer recovery time than with an arthroscopic procedure; however, medical technology and rehabilitation have changed significantly over the years and you’ll be up and moving around fairly quickly following your surgery. You’re encouraged to set goals based on the following general recovery timeline.
Following Surgery: Week 1
You’ll begin rehabilitating your knee as soon as you wake up from the anesthesia given to you for your surgery. Within a day, you’ll meet with your physical therapist who will assist you with standing and walking using crutches or a walker. From a nurse or occupational therapist, you’ll also learn how to change your bandage, get dressed, shower, and use the toilet as you’re recovering, all of which can be challenging as your knee begins to heal.
Your physical therapist will assist you in getting out of bed and transferring to a bedside toilet. You might also be asked to take a few steps, but you won’t go far this first day. Additionally, your physical therapist will also show you how to use your continuous passive motion (CPM) device, which is used to move your knee continuously after surgery to prevent joint stiffness and scar tissue buildup. You might go home with this device.
On the second day post-surgery, you’ll probably walk several times during the day using crutches or a walker. You may feel like your energy is starting to return, but remember to take it easy and not push yourself too hard. You might start using a regular toilet rather than a bedside commode, especially if you’re walking short distances. You’ll probably still be using the CPM device, but the good news is you will likely be allowed to shower!
If you have not been discharged from the hospital by today, you’ll probably be headed home. However, if you’re not progressing well with your physical therapy, you may have to stay a few more days. Your knee should be getting stronger every day, allowing you to increase exercise and return to more activities. You’ll be working to bend your knee further and may still be using a CPM device, but your pain medication dosage will start to be reduced.
Between your discharge day from the hospital and the third week following your surgery, you should be able to move around with very little trouble using crutches, a walker, or a cane. You won’t have as much pain and will be on an even lower dosage of pain medication. You may still be using a CPM device, although many patients have been released from this by now. It’s also possible that you aren’t using crutches or a walker anymore, either.
You should be able to walk or stand for 10 minutes at a time and your knee should be able to bend 90 degrees.You should also be able to extend your leg straight out by the 10-day post-surgery mark. If using a cane instead of crutches or a walker, be sure to hold it in the hand opposite to your new knee for proper support. You’ll still be performing physical therapy exercises to improve your range of motion and mobility.
As long as you have followed your rehabilitation schedule, you will notice a significant improvement in your knee’s strength and range of motion in weeks four through six following your knee replacement. Your new goals at this point will be to continue increasing your strength and mobility through continued physical therapy and to begin relying less on your crutches, walker, or cane, depending on if you are still using such a device.
You’ll be able to take longer walks and stand for significantly longer periods of time to complete tasks like cooking and cleaning. It’ll be during this period when your physician will likely release you to return to work, as long as you have a job that doesn’t require walking, lifting, or travel. In these cases, you are still about six weeks away from being able to return to your job. You can, however, begin driving between weeks four and six.
Physical therapy on your knee will continue all the way until week 12 post-surgery, but by now, you’ll be working on getting a full range of motion and strengthening the muscles surrounding your knee. By week 11, you should be able to bend your knee to about 115 degrees, which is nearly normal (“normal” is 135 degrees, but 125 degrees is considered enough to carry out most activities). Don’t stop working hard now! This is an important phase of your recovery.
By this time, you’ll have almost no pain in your knee and you’ll notice a significant decrease in stiffness. You probably won’t be using any type of walking assistance device and you can start expanding exercise to cycling and swimming. The work you do now will determine the quality of your life in terms of how well your knee treats you in the future. Following your prescribed physical therapy plan will help you return to your normal lifestyle more quickly.
At 12 weeks after your knee replacement surgery, you will be nearly fully recovered. This, of course, depends on how well you followed your physical therapy plan and whether or not you had any complications. You should continue following any physical therapy exercises given to you by your physical therapist and avoid any high-impact activities that could cause damage to your new knee. These activities include skiing, running, basketball, football, and aerobics. Consult your physician before starting any new activity.
Most patients are able to return to low-impact activities like golf, dancing, and cycling by week 12. They report very little pain, if any, and are able to return to all normal activities and job-related tasks. If you haven’t hit the 115-degree mark in your range of motion yet, this is the time to work toward that goal. This will enhance your ability to perform all activities that you were able to perform prior to your knee’s degeneration or injury.
Beyond 12 Weeks
Your new knee will continue to improve after this point, getting stronger and more resilient. However, you will want to give it up to six more months before you expose your knee to high-impact activities, and then, only with the approval of your physician. At this point, though, you should be able to do anything you need to do to return to your normal, everyday life. Most surgeons will consider you fully-healed when you reach the 12-week milestone.
You can expect your new knee to last at least 10 years, and more likely 20 years or more. There is about a 95% chance that your knee will still be in excellent condition after a decade and about an 85% chance that it remains that way after two decades. You will want to continue to follow up with your surgeon every three-to-five years just to make sure your knee is healthy and that you are not experiencing any complications.
Should You Get Your Knee Replaced?
Now that you know the general recovery time for a knee replacement, you will need to decide if surgery is the right option. There is no magical formula that will tell you that surgery is the way to go. The main reason people get their knee replaced is because of the pain they are in and getting your knee replaced will eventually relieve that pain. However, there are less invasive treatments available as well, and these should be explored first.
As mentioned earlier, you should try the available non-surgical treatments to help your knee pain before opting for surgery. These include physical therapy, losing weight, various injections, anti-inflammatory medications, and alternative medicines such as massage and acupuncture. If you experience relief from these treatments, you will not need surgery, but if they don’t work, you will want to consult with an experienced orthopaedic surgeon to explore your options, which may include a full replacement of your knee.
About the Surgery
Even though the knee is the joint that is replaced most often, surgeons never take the decision to operate lightly. They will ensure you are healthy enough to undergo the procedure and that you will commit to the recovery process. If you are not considered healthy enough for the procedure, you will probably need to wait until any other health conditions are treated. This includes obesity, as most surgeons will require you to lose weight before they’ll operate.
Artificial knees consist of metal and plastic and are either attached to your bone using bone cement or using a porous substance that will allow your bone to grow around the replacement. It is also possible that both methods will be used during the same procedure. Your surgeon will make an incision of between six and 10 inches long over your knee to expose the joint. The kneecap will be moved to the side so the damaged portion is accessible.
Your surgeon will then remove the damaged tissue surrounding your knee, along with a bit of bone where the new knee will be attached. The new metal and plastic parts will be inserted into the void where the damaged tissue was and attached as mentioned earlier. Finally, your surgeon will close your incision. The entire procedure will take between 60 and 90 minutes.
Ready For a Consultation?
If you’re unsure whether it’s time to get your knee replaced, talk with a surgeon who can examine your Knee Replacement in Arizona and help you make the best decision. Contact the orthopaedic experts at Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates in Pittsburg, PA today and schedule your initial consultation.