knee replacement recovery tips

17 Knee Replacement Recovery Tips (Things I’ve Learned)

Need some tips to enhance your knee replacement recovery? Some of these ideas I learned from friends and acquaintances that had already had knee replacement surgery and they shared their experiences with me.

I read as much as I could before my TKR so that I would have a good understanding of what my recovery was going to entail. Then, I learned the old fashioned way by experiencing TKR and the recovery process myself.

You don’t have any control over the actual surgery (that’s why you are careful to pick a good surgeon), but once the operation is complete it is solely up to you to decide how hard you are going to work at recovery. Below are my suggestions for a successful TKR recovery.

As I mentioned in other articles, the rehab starts immediately after your surgery. Physical therapy begins in the hospital, continues at home, and then to an offsite therapist and finally, you can continue the rehab as long as you want it to last.

Knee Replacement Recovery Tips

#1 Get Your Leg, Knee and Muscles Ready For Surgery

Do your best to strengthen your knee (muscles) before surgery. The stronger your muscles and supporting structures around your knee are pre-surgery the better your recovery will be.

I couldn’t lift weights with my knee but I could ride a bike and swim without pain. Find some type of exercise that is comfortable for you and start exercising your leg months before your surgery.

#2 Do Your Exercises Even Though It Hurts

The rehab is going to hurt. Your pain will depend on your own pain threshold. Even though it hurts to exercise, do your best and persevere.

Remember the old saying, “no pain no gain”. It was easier for me to do my rehab and exercises when the therapist was present and encouraging me.

When I had to do another two sets of the same exercises after she left and after I left the physical therapy office, it was up to me to complete the routine. Nobody was watching and it is tempting to take shortcuts. Don’t take shortcuts.

#3 Refuse The Urge To Be Sedentary

Besides prescribed exercise routines, your therapist will want you to take walks. Make yourself get out of the recliner and outside for at least 3 walks a day once your therapist gives you the go ahead.

If your caregiver or a friend or family member will walk with you, their encouragement and conversation make taking walks easier. Do ankle pumps and ankle rolls even when you are sitting down.

#4 Ice Religiously

Ice your knee after exercise and after walking. If your knee feels good after exercise and you don’t notice any swelling or pain, ice anyway.

Also, if you are sitting, reading or watching TV, ice between exercises. The more you ice early on the sooner the swelling will decrease.

#5 Elevate Even When You Feel Good

Ice and elevation are the keys to your recovery. You can ice throughout the day and you can elevate your knee anytime you are sitting or lying down.

If you are like me, you will find yourself sitting around in your recliner a lot between exercise times. Keep your leg elevated with a wedge pillow even if your recliner elevates your knee somewhat.

If it is comfortable continue to sleep at night with your knee elevated. Again just because you feel good, don’t stop elevating your knee.

#6 Work On Your Walking Form

Pre-surgery my leg was bowed and walked with a noticeable limp. Once you start walking after TKR you may have to relearn to walk correctly.

My in-home therapist made it a point to walk behind me reminding me to walk with proper form. On your other walks, have your caregiver or walking partner critique your walking form.

Discard those old shoes that show wear from walking incorrectly.

If you can, video record you walking form before surgery and then have your walking partner video your new form occasionally.

#7 Take A Pain Pill or Tylenol Substitute Before Exercises (and Physical Therapy)

Early on I always took a pain pill 30 minutes before my in-home therapy session. Once I weaned myself off the pain medicine, I took a Tylenol pill.

I continued to take a Tylenol pill before my off-site therapy sessions too. Taking the medication made it easier for me to do my rehab, especially the range of motion exercises.

#8 Early On Focus On Range Of Motion

All exercise after knee replacement is important to strengthen the muscles and supporting structures of the knee. Strengthening the hip is important too.

However, the sooner you begin to see progress on your range of motion the better your recovery will be. Your therapist will have you doing range-of-motion exercises right off the bat.

You don’t want scar tissue to build up. You want to avoid returning to your surgeon for manipulation under anesthesia or in extreme cases, surgery to remove scar tissue.

The range of motion exercises will hurt and cause discomfort but trust me the pain is worth the result. Don’t get discouraged, take shortcuts or give up.

#9 Try Not To Touch The Wound (less chance of infection)

You want to avoid infection in your wound especially while the staples are present. You will be advised not to shower until the staples are removed.

Be careful when hand washing around the wound. Wear shorts if possible so that fabric doesn’t rub across the wound and staples.

#10 Massage Around The Knee Often

Massage definitely was a plus in my recovery. My caregiver usually gave me at least one extended massage on the sides of my knee and on the back of my knee.

I massaged my knee myself before my 3 daily exercise sessions. A massage right before bedtime also felt great.

I used the product “Free Up Massage Cream” that my therapist recommended. Other kinds of lotion or cream work well too.

#11 Use Walking Poles In The First Few Month

You will need to use a walker immediately after TKR. In a few days, you will transition to walking poles or a cane.

I recommend walking poles and it is important to have them on hand. The poles will help you maintain balance when you begin walking again and they will also take some weight off of the knee and hip.

#12 Invest In New Shoes For Extra Cushion

Before TKR, invest in a couple of new pairs of shoes. Your old shoes may have wear from walking incorrectly.

Spend a little more than usual and get a good athletic shoe with cushion (air) for your walks. Consider a pair of slip-ons or Velcro tie shoes for around the house.

#13 Don’t Forget The Scar Cream (Keep Scar Hydrated)

Use scar cream and an aloe based lotion often. I always applied it first thing in the morning as well as before and after my 3 exercise sessions.

It is inexpensive and ensures the scar is hydrated, making it more comfortable to bend especially during my range of motion exercises. At my age, I wasn’t as worried about the cosmetic appearance of the scar, but if you are concerned, apply the scar cream often.

#14 Wear Loose, Comfortable Clothes

As I mentioned above, you will have staples in your knee for about 12 days. Short pants or athletic shorts make it easy to dress and also keeps the fabric from long pants off the wound.

Even after the staples have been removed long pants especially denim can cause discomfort. If you have to wear long pants, I recommend thin fabric or zippered pants that are specially made for post-surgery (side button pants work too). Check out my article on what to wear after TKR.

This is another good reason to plan your surgery and recovery during warmer weather when less clothing is necessary.

#15 Plan Meals Ahead Of Time (or get delivery)

If you have a reliable caregiver that can prepare meals for you after TKR you are fortunate. Otherwise, you might consider preparing and freezing meals ahead of time.

Packaged cereal for breakfast is much easier than frying eggs, bacon and making toast. You may consider restaurants that deliver meals (not just pizza) and some communities have meals on wheels for seniors.

Keep snacks and water close to where you will be sitting during the day so that they are within reach.

#16 Plan Activities That You Can Do During recovery

Plan some sedentary activities that you can accomplish while recovering. Puzzles, video games, and TV can occupy your recovery time.

However, you may want to make better use of your time. You may have a hobby or a project or two that you have been wanting to do such as sorting old photographs, writing letters, knitting, reading or drawing to name a few.

Have materials nearby and ready so that they are easy to access once you feel like doing something.

#17 Have any Necessary Items

Tissue, lip balm, lotion, lens cleaners, and medication need to be within easy reach of where you are sitting.

I had my TV remotes, my fan remote and my fireplace remote nearby within easy reach. I also had a laptop computer and a kindle next to my chair.

Make sure your phone is within easy reach to answer phone calls, texts and to access emails easily.

If your thermostat has a remote keep it handy especially during hot or cold weather.

Conclusion

Planning ahead can make your recovery from TKR much easier. In this article, I included some tips that helped me throughout my recovery.

Exercise and therapy are the keys to your recovery. Get organized before surgery. The more comfortable you are and the easier you can access needed items the better your recovery will be.

Choose the right clothing and shoes. Prepare meals and have easy access to food, water, and snacks.

Use walking aids to help you regain proper walking form. Plan some meaningful project or projects that you can accomplish during your recovery.

Follow your physical therapists plan for exercise and do not take shortcuts. I hope these tips will be useful to you during your TKR recovery. Thanks for reading my blog.