Rapid Recovery In Total Knee Replacement
Recovering From Knee Replacement Surgery
More and more people are having knee replacement surgery to relieve knee pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 500,000 total knee replacement surgeries are performed in the United States each year, usually because of severe arthritis. That’s why Terri Hartman, age 62, chose to have knee replacement surgery last year.
“I could hardly walk without knee pain due my osteoarthritis,” says Hartman, who lives in St. Petersburg, Fla. Now she’s able to get around without a hint of knee pain. But recovery from surgery wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. “Complete recovery from the knee replacement surgery took three months of rehab and focusing on my knee,” says Hartman.
Knowing what to expect and planning ahead can make recovering from the surgery easier. Use this guide to prepare for post-surgery.
Surgery for Knee Pain: What You Can Expect at the Hospital
Expect to stay in the hospital for three to five days. Knee movement is important for recovery and will begin immediately after the surgery.
Many patients will have a device called a continuous passive motion (CPM) exercise machine placed on the artificial knee within a few hours after surgery. The device automatically moves the muscles of the legs to decrease swelling and improve range of motion of the knee. You can begin exercising your knee on your own soon after surgery. “Most people are able to put weight on the knee and walk down the hall with the aid of a walker the first day,” says Steven Stuchin, MD, director of orthopedic surgery at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City. A physical therapist will typically visit you the day after surgery to teach you specific exercises to strengthen your knee muscles and improve your range of motion. You can do many of these exercises on your own at home.
Surgery for Knee Pain: What You Can Expect at Home
Most knee replacement patients need a walker to get around for about two weeks, and a cane for two weeks following that. After a month, you should be able to get around without walking aids. Making your home recovery-friendly ahead of time can be very helpful. To prepare your home and ease your life after surgery:
- Declutter.Remove throw rugs and small items from the floor. Tape down electrical cords and rearrange furniture to allow wide pathways for your walker.
- Set up a bedroom downstairs.Going up and down stairs will be difficult at first. Include a recovery center next to the bed with a table, phone, TV remote control, reading materials and glasses, medications, water pitcher, and drinking glass.
- Have an apron with pouches available.A carpenter’s apron with pouches will help you carry around items you may need, leaving your hands free to hold the walker or cane. “That was a lifesaver for me,” says Hartman, who wore her apron daily. “I could grab my sandwich and salad from the fridge, add my fork, and make it back to my bed for an independent lunch.”
- Consider installing handrails and grab-bars.Modifying your bathroom with these safety features can make maneuvering easier with a walker or cane. Add a shower bench or chair for bathing. If the toilet is low, install a toilet seat riser.
- Arrange help.Don’t hesitate to ask friends and neighbors to help out with groceries, meal preparation, and transportation. With your new knee, you’ll be able to return the favor down the road.
Surgery for Knee Pain: Pain Management
Recovering from knee replacement surgery can be painful. “The best way to control pain is to get ahead of it, so we use strategies to cut off pain before it starts,” says Dr. Stuchin. You’ll receive an epidural or general anesthesia during surgery. Afterward, you’ll probably be given pain medicine through an intravenous (IV) tube that allows you to regulate the amount of pain relief. You’ll also receive a prescription for pain pills. Don’t hesitate to take your pain medication while you recover at home. “When you’re in pain, it’s difficult to do the physical therapy that will relieve swelling and stiffness,” notes Stuchin. “And if you don’t do the therapy, your post-surgery recovery won’t be as successful.”
Hartman was able to stop taking her pain meds after three weeks. The need for pain pills varies with each person, but most patients are completely off them by six weeks, says Stuchin. Above all, stick with your physical therapy. Following the instructions from your doctor and physical therapist will pay off. “Having knee replacement surgery has totally changed my life,” Hartman says.
Video: How to get out of bed after knee replacement surgery
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