One of the most common orthopedic surgeries these days is a Total Knee Arthroplasty (TKA), otherwise known as a “knee replacement.” With the prevalence of knee pain (25% of adults) in our country, along with the associated arthritis stemming from injuries or wear and tear as we age, it seems that this is a trend that will continue for the time being.
Over 600,000 total knee replacement surgeries are performed annually in the United States.
In fact, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re either considering a knee replacement or you have had one already.
Maybe you don’t know yet and you’re just weighing your options. Click here to read about other non-surgical options.
If you had a knee replacement and are still struggling or if you are scheduled for a knee replacement then I would like to give 3 points of advice (and some encouragement) on what to expect.
1. First, know that it will not be easy, but the end result is worth it.
Some patients do very well right from the beginning and are already moving and feeling great on the first day after surgery, but this is more of an exception than the rule.
Most people will find the first 4 weeks to be difficult, usually requiring pain medication (I would recommend taking a dose before going to your PT appointments!). You may at times even question why you had the surgery as the pain and discomfort can be quite intense.
If you want the best result (and you should) then you will have to have the discipline and drive to do your prescribed exercises even when you don’t feel like it.
Nobody wants to be in pain and if we are in pain we want it to go away NOW. Sadly the body does not heal that fast. Just know that this is only a temporary process and usually the roughest part of the recovery process.
Usually by about 8-12 weeks you are doing much better, and are starting to go about “business as usual”, though you may still deal with stiffness or swelling after days of heavy activity.
You probably won’t feel totally “normal” until about the 1-year mark, but many people will say they feel great much sooner.
But upon reaching the other side, most people are very happy with their new knees and can go about their lives, able to do much more than they could before surgery.
2. Do your exercises, keep it moving.
I know, I know. Exercise after you’ve had a very painful surgery does not sound appealing, and can be difficult. But just like I tell patients in the clinic, “you’ll thank me later.”
Our joints were made to move, and that does not change when we have a replacement.
In fact, after a procedure like this, it is even more important to exercise, because as the body is trying to heal, it will lay down scar tissue, and this combined with your swelling can make the joint even more stiff.
If you go too long like this, some of the loss in your range of motion can be permanent. The only way to prevent that from happening is to keep doing exercises as prescribed by your Physical Therapist.
Get up and walk about every 30 minutes, and if you are resting, rest with the leg elevated to reduce swelling.
As your strength and mobility improve, the discomfort associated with the exercises will decrease, and you will have better results.
Don’t let yourself go through the surgery only to cheat yourself afterwards of having a wonderfully functioning knee.
I would also add that if you have not gotten a replacement yet, but know you will have one, then NOW is the time to start exercising. Lots of research shows that improving strength before surgery actually improves outcomes and makes your recovery easier.
3. Most importantly, don’t give up.
Like I mentioned earlier, some people feel great after surgery. But others don’t.
I will have patients look or talk to the next patient over, and start to get discouraged over not having the same kind of progress, or feeling like they are “stuck” in their recovery after working very hard and not seeing results they expect.
Don’t let this happen to you.
We love to compare ourselves to other people, but the reality is that there is no such thing as “cookie cutter” when it comes to recovery. You really can’t compare yourself to another patient’s recovery, or even one knee to the next if you have both of yours done. Just know that your body is doing its job, and it CAN and WILL heal. Persistence is key, and your mindset plays a major role in how well you get through the process.
Sometimes though, you need a friend to help push you and cheer you on. One of the things I love most about my job is the fact that I get to be there to help people through what can be a difficult process, and I know that my coworkers feel the same.
Our mission at MOSS Rehabilitation Center is to transform the lives of everyday people like you, getting them out of pain after an injury or surgery. I can assure you that we are all passionate about this (and we like to make it fun too!).
If you have, or are soon to be getting a knee replacement, give us a call, and one of our expert therapists will evaluate you and get you started on your road back to normal.
To Your Health,
If you or someone you know is suffering with some aches and pain then give us a call 817-220-MOSS (6677) to schedule a FREE No Obligation Discovery Visit
The author, Dr. Robert Moss PT, ScD is the owner of MOSS Rehabilitation Center in Springtown, TX. He is happy to help you with your knee pain and problems either by phone 817-220-MOSS (6677) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributing author, Joseph Marcum is a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant at MOSS Rehabilitation Center who specializes in getting out of pain and back to doing the things you enjoy most.