5 months after knee replacement surgery-progress-pain

5 Months After TKR Surgery (My Pain, Progress, Setbacks)

Wondering how you’ll be feeling 5 months after knee replacement surgery? I’ll bring you up to date on my TKR recovery and share the good and bad regarding how my knee feels.

Once again, I’m surprised with the time that’s passed and my rate of recovery. If you work hard at your physical therapy and continue to follow through with regular exercise and knee strengthening, I bet you’ll see a remarkable difference just as I have.

I’ve resumed my old activities with no pain (although I’m not running).  At this point, it would be easy to stop exercising and be content with my progress.

However, each month I feel stronger and my knee feels more stable.

I continue to notice the muscles around my knee increasing.

As I share my progress I hope it will encourage you to exercise regularly with an emphasis on your knee long after your physical therapy ends.

Pain Level 5 Months After Knee Replacement

Five months after TKR and I’m able to do every activity I did before my surgery without the bone-on-bone pain I experienced for so long. I still have some soreness and swelling at times after activity.

I continue to elevate and ice my knee often after activity (check out the ice packs I used for TKR).

I’m playing pickleball 3 times a week on a hard surface (tennis courts). When I play, I reach and squat to hit and pick up balls frequently.

I don’t feel like I am any quicker with my movements front to back and side to side, but my knee feels much more stable.

I feel the leg press and squat exercises have helped me gain muscle in my legs and they’ve taken some pressure off my joints.

However, I don’t feel I’ve reached my peak in recovery.  My doctor advised me that the knee would remain swollen during the first 6-12 months.

I was also told the knee would feel 5 degrees warmer, which it does, and I may hear and feel clicking when going up and down stairs.

Range Of Motion 5 Months After TKR

You can expect rapid growth in your range of motion after TKR surgery during the first 6 weeks.

After therapy, even with regular exercise, the range of motion only increases slightly by a degree or so over time (my physical therapy workout after surgery).

If you did not have much range of motion before TKR, work towards getting back to your previous range of motion and be happy with every degree you increase past that mark.

I believe that slacking off during the first few weeks after surgery will result in having a reduction in your range of motion. Work through the pain if you can tolerate it and listen to the recommendations of your doctor.

The Muscle Mass Around My Knee

I walked on a bad knee for decades. My leg began to bow and my calf, quads and hamstring muscles showed significant signs of atrophy.

I hardly had a visible calf muscle at all.

After knee replacement surgery, my muscles atrophied even more but I was also pleasantly surprised to see how fast they began to build back up.

It takes consistent hard work in the fitness center to make progress and I now have a discernable calf muscle (how shoes have helped with my walking form).

My quadriceps and hamstring muscles continue to get bigger and stronger even though they are still not as large as my non-surgical leg. My long-term goal is to have matching legs and now that I’m utilizing them in a more balanced manner I think the muscles will become more symmetrical.

How Will The Knee Look After 5 Months

If you religiously apply an aloe-based lotion or a scar gel to your incision, you should observe a remarkable difference in the size and appearance of your scar.

I continue to keep applying lotion or gel to my scar 2 or 3 times daily and will continue for the first year.

My surgical knee is still larger than my non-surgical knee but the surgical knee is firmer, more stable and not as mushy (with fluid) as it was pre-TKR.

The bow in my leg is gone and I have two straight legs for the first time in many years.

A Few Tips For Others Who Are Experiencing Setbacks

With any surgery, you can expect to experience setbacks.  I feel I’ve been fortunate and two friends that had TKR within a month of my surgery, are also doing very well.

If you’re having difficulty with your recovery you should consult with your doctor or resume therapy (causes of pain after TKR).

  • You may have work or family obligations and so you’re not working as hard as you should in the fitness center.
  • Maybe you’re battling with your weight and it’s putting too much pressure on the knee joint.

The flexion exercises you did during therapy are important to continue even though it’s been 5 months. Remember to work on strengthening your hips too as strong hips relieve pressure on your knees.

Check out my other article with my best TKR recovery tips.

Conclusion

Once your formal therapy ends continue to work hard with your recovery. When you know your time is getting short with your physical therapist, have him or her help you set up a routine of exercises that you can do on your own.

Don’t relax and be content with 6 weeks of physical therapy. It’s harder to stay consistent when nobody is watching.

However, you need to be disciplined and continue to work hard alone on your recovery.

If you are having trouble working out alone, find a buddy to work out with. If you can afford to pay the expense of a personal trainer that will oversee your workouts, it definitely could be worth the expense.

Whether you’re working out 3 to 4 times a week or applying lotion and gel to the scar, it’s important to be consistent and keep a routine. Continue to ice and elevate your knee after activity and workouts.

The longer you stay with it, the stronger and more stable your knee will become.

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I have Knee Surgery Lady scheduled on March 6 which is bone on bone. I’d be interested in an update to this blog showing your experiences right after surgery. Of course I’m concerned about Pain, wound care, and Rehab exercise. Any pointers or tips appreciated

    1. Hello Nancy,

      So how goes it one month after your TKR? I am scheduled for June 26 and Oct. 9 for the knees. Wanted to get both done at the same time but my Dr. doesn’t like to do it that way especially for people “of a certain age bracket” and we know what that means (older). I am 67 but every Dr. I see now has become my kids age 😀. If you could fill me in on your progress that would be awesome. I am scared of everything especially the pain. My email is amkmgoog@gmail.com

      1. I’m 44 had my right knee replaced was pretty painful first few days and sleeping bit difficult but by end of my first 2 weeks with therapist I was walking by self almost 100% bend and straighting back,think you’ll do great if work hard and determined our age I know big difference but if in good health and shape you’ll do great,good luck!!

        1. Thanks for your post. I had surgery end of Jan and 2nd knee end of April. Just curious, but at 5 months does your knee still feel stiff? I kniw everyone heals differently, so just curious. Both of mine still feel stiff and I’m working hard to get the quads strong so they don’t hurt all the time.

      2. Hi Karen
        Just happened by your post
        I’m 65 years young and I had both my knees replaced at the same time and I pretty much live by myself.
        I don’t regret a bit of it
        I had bad arthritis which I was living with but an auto accident broke the camels back and I had to get both done.
        There is pain for the first few weeks. I won’t lie but preparing ( walking as much as you can) before surgery helps.
        Get a great surgeon who will listen to you.
        I kept a journal which helped me see my progress when I felt abit down .
        I’m almost 6 moths post op
        I walk 4 miles and sometimes 6
        Still have some swelling and stiffness but I know that will pass.
        As far as my scares go I don’t mind them
        Their my survivor tattoos.
        Lol
        Good luck

    2. Just came across this blog. I’m also almost 5months post and really struggling.

      Initially whereas my op went well they also found a severely torn quad tendon so I was held back a bit in recovery. The quad I believe has caused more pain than the knee initially.

      At the moment I can walk but don’t feel fully confident and when out and about usually take my stick. I hate it. I did physio for 6-8 weeks and that got me out and about and more exercises. My biggest struggle is the pain inside knee and slightly lower left at times. I was told that’s all normal and my surgeon was happy with my progress at 3 months. Feels like I haven’t changed much in the last couple of months at all. Main issue is after seating the stiffness can be insane. Did you have anything similar and did you find something that worked?

      I haven’t gone back to the gym yet but also thought leg press may be my saviour. I walked up a huge amount of stairs to a lighthouse the other day. I managed, but it was both feet to one’s Step slowly, I still don’t have the push in my operated leg for stairs. Again I think that my quad. So frustrating as thought I’d be in a new job by now but I just don’t have the confidence to freely walk in without feeling crippled.

      Knee is still super swollen compared to my other. I can’t comfortably where my jeans anymore. First world problem but limiting.

      I also didn’t know I should be icing my knee. I haven’t done this since 2-3 weeks in. Physio told me heat and surgeon said I didn’t need physio. I feel they were both wrong there.

      Any advice would be awesome.
      I’ve made definite improvements but surprised how long it’s all taken. Definitely not the 4/6 weeks I had thought. I need my other knee done but absolutely petrified at that thought.

      1. San, 5 months post RTKR. 76 years old. Prior to surgery was riding my bike 8-10 miles daily. Did 8 weeks PT, am riding again about 1/2 as much, but am doing daily. Uphill is a no go. Go to gym 3 days week doing leg presses, hamstring curls, semi squats, toe raises, do bent knee stretches 4-6x daily at 10 minute duration (hurts like heck last 2-3 minutes), do hamstring stretches with a strap daily. Still icing 3-4 times daily. Pain is negligible but knee is still swollen and very tight. It’s annoying and uncomfortable. 2 different Doc says could last a year!!! I am not quite ready to say hurrah, glad I did it. I do hope you get better.

  2. Hi Ken, nice comments. I am 69 and had a right knee replacement in Jan. 2018, with great results. My left will be done Feb. 19 – very soon. Both have been bone on bone for 3+ years, but the right caused about 90% of my pain and mobility loss. I think the right continues to improve beyond the year mark. Water aerobics and walking have been helpful. Will be able to walk farther once the right is done and rehabbed. Best of luck!

    1. Author

      Awesome that you’ve experienced a successful surgery as well. I was also bone on bone, but for a few decades. Thankfully my other knee is okay for now. I agree with your comment on water activities. The water is a perfect, no impact way to strengthen the leg, stretch, and work on your range of motion. Wish you the best of luck on your second knee!

    1. Author

      For the scar, I was recommended Carmex Vitamin E and Aloe lotion. For massaging my knee I was recommended Free-Up massage lotion. My physical therapist said Free-Up was the best option to use. I found both to be helpful. Hope that helps!

  3. Suggestions for knee hyperextending. Also experiencing lag in same knee. Stairs are difficult because of the two things. But no pain. For that I am greatful.

    1. Author

      If you put a pillow under your ankle (when laying on your back) it allows you to slightly hyperextend your knee. Stairs have never been easy for me but it’s much better with my new knee. Great to hear you’re experiencing no pain – that is definitely something to be grateful for. Thanks for the comment.

  4. I’m 5 months out and taking a break from mowing my lawn with a push mower. The darn hills are killing me. I’m resting now but have to go back shortly. I am a teacher and had to go back to work fulltime my 4th week out. It has certainly been challenging. My knee has taken much longer to heal compared to my hip replacement 6years ago. I have been lax on icing and that seems to be a problem currently. Its my fault. Keep icing and elevating whenever you can after a strenuous activity. I need to take my advice.:) good luck.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing. Yes, keep icing – good to hear you’re feeling good enough to mow the lawn!

  5. Ken, thanks for authoring and sharing all this information! And thanks to everyone else who has posted here! I am 69 years old and had a TKR on my left knee 2.5 weeks ago. my left knee was loaded with arthritis and bone on bone. I didn’t have much pain but the knee was going wonky with sporadic locking up and stability probs. The operation went well and I was released the day after surgery. I used Oxy for the pain and that was a mistake as it made me very groggy and disinclined to exercise. But I did some and went to PT as soon as I could! Still cant go back to water aerobics!
    My main problem is not my nice new knee – its my left foot. It was very swollen and I felt like I was walking on a balloon. Its getting better with ice and elevation, and exercise. Has anyone else experienced this foot problem during recovery?

  6. Ken, your blog made such a difference for me while getting ready for my TKR as well as during my recovery. I’m 51, for a few more days anyway, and had my right knee TKR on March 6th. I did a lot of prepping for the surgery by reading your blog and exercising a lot. I’m at 3 1/2 months post surgery now and am feeling really well. I went back to the gym 2 1/2 weeks post surgery (upper body only) and started leg workouts with light weights 4 weeks ago – I was doing 95# deadlifts today! I still refer back to your blog every week, it really was incredibly informative and helpful. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

    1. Author

      Nice to know my experience is useful to others and it’s great to hear from other people who are going through the same recovery. Wish you continued progress and thanks for the comment.

  7. I’m eight months since my surgery I’m not having pain but I’m having a lot of numbness on my knee is that normal? Thank you.

    1. Author

      Can’t give you a specific answer but I think everyone feels small differences with their new knee. For me, it was heat and occasional clicking. Maybe others are experiencing the same thing.. Glad to hear you aren’t experiencing pain!

  8. Thanks for the information . I had TKR three months back on my left knee. I feel lots of stiffness and heavy knee. Is it normal?

  9. I’m almost 3 weeks out from bilateral knee replacement and things have gone smoothly! Even had my grand boys (4 1/2 and 18 months)and daughter here for the last 3 days! I’ve been walking on my own for most of the past week. I did spend 10 days in hospital and rehab as we have stairs to just get into our house, let alone bedrooms and full bath upstairs, but mainly b/c I had no one to stay with me during the day. Hubs works 6am-6pm. Hospital and rehab therapy was twice a day for 1-2 hours and included OT also. Pain has been minimal and I use my Berg cooling machine less and less. Outpatient PT starts this week but I’ve been doing the exercises sent home with me. I did exercise at least 5-6 days a week before surgery (CrossFit type along with kettlebell and weights) as I had very little pain with my bone on bone – just got tired of losing the functionality and strength on stairs etc. I do think this has helped in my recovery and thankful I could do that while putting this off for years! My daughter says she can already tell I walk better and my legs are straighter. My main PT will be getting that bend back! Not a pleasant feeling but totally necessary to be able to enjoy all I used to do. I’m 64 years young and hoping to be able to somewhat chase after all the grandchildren by next summer!

  10. I am almost 4 months out from my TKR and have an issue with extremely stiff knee but no pain. I had a few setbacks since my surgery June 26th with the worst issues being 3 weeks of Sciatica and a fall smack dab on my new knee at 8 weeks which was painful. X-rays showed implant is stable but the soft tissue around has been damaged again. My big question is does anyone deal with extremely stiff knee joint? I have a good ROM so thats not an issue but the joint is always stiff. Thanks

    1. Author

      From what I experienced, I had stiffness for as long as there was swelling/inflammation. I believe the extra fluid around the joint made it stiff. It can take up to a year for the swelling and inflammation to reduce, even if your knee looks normal. Glad to hear your ROM is good!

  11. I am 44 and post total knee replacement by 5 months. I still have a lot of swelling, chronic pain, numbness, sharp pains? I’m not happy with the fact I’m still limping and sometimes when out at a festival the walking just makes my knee swollen for days. I am going back in to see the Doctor that assisted in the surgery.

  12. Thank you for this article, it was so motivational and inspiring. After weeks of physical therapy at a facility, it was my intentions to continue the therapy but I did not. My surgery is 5 months out and I definitely notice that my range is not good and my knee is very stiff. One of my problems is that I sit at a computer all day as I work from home. I have set reminders to get up every hour but 90% of the time so engage in work that I do not stop for hours at a time and then when I do, I do not stretch or do therapy. After this article, I will definitely start back on doing the therapy every day and will definitely get up more from the computer. Thank you again for such a great article, wish I had found it 2 months ago. 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks for the comment. Working at a computer will definitely make recovery slower. I’d imagine more stiffness, lack of movement, swelling due to lack of circulation. Glad my experience can help! Best wishes in your continued recovery.

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