Knee Replacement Recovery Tips

Knee replacement is one of the most common forms of joint replacement surgery. In North America and Europe alone approximately 1.5 million knee replacements are performed every year and that number is expected to double in the coming decade as the populations in these areas continue to age. While the procedure itself is well known and has become almost second nature to surgeons many people still have questions about the recovery process. While it’s true that recovery will typically take several months, the good news is that you’re going to feel relief almost immediately, you’ll regain full range of motion and there are a number of knee replacement recovery tips you can follow that will make the recovery process easier and faster.

Make These Knee Replacement Recovery Tips Part of Your Routine

Your recovery from knee replacement surgery is going to start the moment you wake up after the operation. Before the first day is out you’ll be standing, flexing the knee and maybe even climbing a few steps with the aid of your physical therapist. The real work of recovery however happens after you get home. And it’s your level of commitment to that process that will determine whether it lasts 5-6 months or a year. Take the following tips to heart and your recovery will certainly be shorter and more complete.

– Work closely with your physiotherapist – The physiotherapist (PT) will start working with you as soon as the surgery is over. Their most important role however will be guiding you through the process of recovery after you’ve returned home. They’ll likely visit you several times a week and put you through a variety of exercises aimed at strengthening the new knee joint and regaining range of motion. Our tip here would be to cooperate fully with the PT for as long as is necessary

– Be patient – There are some people who undergo knee replacement who are prideful types. They don’t want anyone to see them using a walker or crutches or a cane. As such they’re always ditching the assistive devices and trying to walk on their own. We understand the feelings and appreciate the determination but we also have to emphasize that no good can come from this approach. Putting too much stress on the newly constructed knee joint too soon can do irreparable harm and make a full recovery unlikely.

– Ask for help – If you live alone it may be too much for you to stay within the activity guidelines prescribed by the surgeon and PT and still do things like cook, run errands and clean up around the house. Ask your family and friends for help. See if one of them would be willing to stop by on a regular basis for the first few weeks just to see if you’re okay. Perhaps a neighbour would be willing to do your grocery shopping for you until you are able to do it yourself. There’s no shame in asking for help. The shame is in trying to do too much and derailing your recovery.

– Dealing with swelling – Your new knee will likely be swollen for some time after you get home and will continue to swell from time to time for several months following surgery. This is normal. Once your body is more attuned to walking on the new knee the swelling should become less frequent until it stops altogether. While swelling can be troublesome there are things you can do to minimize it. Laying down on the couch and elevating the leg will help reduce swelling. Also, you should invest in some reusable ice packs and wrap them around the knee to reduce swelling. If you don’t have ice packs a bag of frozen peas does basically the same job. Tylenol, Motrin IB, Advil and other over the counter medications can help as well.

– Lose weight – You’re going to be laid up for a while after you return home so it’s as good a time as any to think about modifying your diet to lose any extra weight you’re carrying around. Excess weight puts an abnormal amount of stress on the knee joint and will only make recovery a longer, more difficult process. Your surgeon or PT can likely refer you to a nutritionist who can devise a diet plan for you that will help you lose weight. The result will be good for your whole body, not just your knee.

– Exercise – Your PT has no doubt left you with a list of exercises they want you to perform that will help strengthen the knee and surrounding area. Do them. Exercises for knee replacement will help shorten your recovery period and ensure you are able to get the most out of your newly rebuilt knee in the long run. If the new knee is to live up to its potential the muscles around it will need to be strengthened. And that means exercise. Don’t scrimp on this part of your recovery.

– Keep your eyes open for trouble – While knee replacement surgery is fairly routine it’s not without risks so you’ll need to keep your eyes open for potential problems after you return home. Hard, red, painful areas of the leg could indicate blood clots. Swelling that doesn’t respond to treatment could indicate problems with the new knee joint. If you’re dizzy or nauseous or short of breath these could indicate problems. Make sure you stay alert to your condition and call your doctor if you suspect anything is wrong.


For many people knee replacement surgery is a life-altering procedure that allows them to get their life back on track after years of pain and limited mobility. If this type of surgery is to provide its full array of potential benefits however, you’re going to have to do your part during the recovery period. Make sure you take these knee replacement recovery tips to heart and you’ll give yourself the best shot at being able to enjoy all the benefits of knee replacement for many years to come.