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Total knee replacement surgery is a major decision in life. Make sure you have the must-have items for TKR recovery.
Some people will be forced to have knee replacement after an accident, while most people, like me, will choose to have knee replacement after dealing with pain for many years.
As you prepare for TKR surgery you’ll likely make a checklist of the pro’s and con’s of the surgery. You’ll take notes on ways to prepare your body and your home for surgery.
Preparation and planning is essential in order to have a successful recovery. In the days following surgery you don’t want to be sitting in bed thinking “I wished I had planned better and bought some necessary items before TKR.”
In this article we’ll cover a few must-have items after knee replacement. Some of the items we mention will be more important than others and some items you might already own. We encourage you to rank this list according to your individual needs.
My Best Must-Have Items After Knee Replacement Surgery
Leading up to my surgery I thought I was prepared. I had exercised, strengthened the muscles of my joint for a few months and tried to stretch to maintain flexibility. Minus the pain in my knee I felt better than I had in a long time.
After consulting with my wife, we purchased a few items that we knew would help with recovery. These items included shoes, shoe inserts, special pillows, ice packs, a compression sleeve, an electric massager, and scar cream.
Some of the items we purchased were more valuable than others (especially the ice). I also learned that I had forgotten a few things like hiking sticks or a cane and a heating pad.
After surgery I was up and active within a few weeks. There was pain and swelling/inflammation for a week after the surgery and that’s when I needed the most help. Thankfully I had family to help make me comfortable and thankfully we made a few purchases to prepare.
In this blog I share thoughts that went through my head pre and post surgery. I also share helpful products that might aid you in recovery.
Most surgeons have a checklist of things you’ll need after surgery so please consult them. The list below is my own list which helped me tremendously.
No. 1 Ice
As a former athlete I appreciate the benefits of ice. But you know what? I never met an athlete who liked to ice their legs, arm, or whole body after activity. Icing was done because it helps, not because it’s fun (read more about the benefits of ice here)
Ice will be your ally in the days following surgery. This doesn’t mean icing 1 or 2 times per day – this means icing 7, 8, 9, 10 times per day.
While preparing for surgery we stocked the freezer with ice, gel packs, and ice wraps. We were constantly going from the bedroom to the freezer and after a while we had leakage or forgot to refreeze the gel packs.
Although the days following surgery will require a ton of ice, you’ll also be icing your knee for months afterward (sometimes up to 1 year or more after exercise). With this in mind we recommend the Aircast Cryo Cuff and Cooler. I used the Cryo Cuff and it was a life saver.
The cooler saves you time and water/ice. Fill it up once in the morning, place it beside the bed or couch, and you’ll be able to ice all day with just one load. Sure beats keeping things frozen and refreezing ice and gel packs.
No. 2 Compression Socks and Knee Sleeve
Compression is a must-have after surgery. As we’ve discussed in other articles, compression will help reduce inflammation and swelling, and keep blood and fluid circulation moving through your leg rather than staying in your leg.
Directly after surgery you’ll be wearing a full-leg sock, but it’s wise to invest in a compression sleeve for your knee and compression socks for your leg. If needed, these can be worn under clothes or in bed.
I wore mine religiously after surgery for a few weeks and now I wear one during and after exercise or while flying. The best compression sleeves after TKR and socks will reduce the chance of blood clots in the leg!
No. 3 Heating Pad
If you’re a senior, you might experience tight muscles and joints in the morning or after sitting for long periods of time. A heating pad will help get the blood moving and keep muscles and ligaments loose.
I didn’t use heat directly after surgery, however in the weeks and months following I used heat to help warm up my knee before exercising. Using a good heating pad after knee replacement will help with recovery and provide even heat over a given area.
A small heating pad is all that’s needed for your knee. There are also other options (electric free) that can be heated in the microwave and they take a little more effort than the electric heating pads.
No. 4 Anti Scar Cream
Yep, you’ll have scarring after surgery. Most of us have nicks and scars on our knees from falls during our childhood. Scars are part of life and not something to be ashamed of but if you’d prefer to reduce the visibility of your scar there are plenty of scar cream options.
A quick look on the Internet and you can find all kinds of “miracle cures”. In my opinion, your best bet is to use 100% natural or organic oils and creams. Great options are:
- Pure Grape Seed Oil
- Coco Butter Cream
- Extra Virgin Coconut oil
- John’s Wort
These option are natural so you don’t have to worry about putting synthetic ingredients on your skin. Of note: Be careful not to apply scar cream while you still have open wounds and stitches. Scar cream should only be used after the wound is completely sealed and scabs are gone.
No. 5 Post Surgery Pillow For Leg Elevation
We’ve already mentioned the I and C of the acronym “RICE” in ice and compression. Let’s take a look at the “E” – elevation.
For elevation you’ll have a few options. The easiest option is to stack a few pillows from your bed and place your leg on top. This is effective but consider a few things.
- Your knee will be healing from a surgical cut on your leg. Leaking blood or fluid could seep into your pillow. If you typically use the pillow for sleeping (resting your head) it might be gross.
- You will be icing and heating your leg constantly. Moisture from the ice packs will leak into the pillow making it damp, and heating your knee might cause sweating that finds its way into your pillows.
- If you have soft pillows, you’ll need to stack 3-4 pillows to get your knee level with your heart.
- Depending on the length of your leg, the pillows might not be long enough to support your foot (hanging off). Without foot support, there could be added pressure on your knee – which isn’t good.
Leg pillows for post-surgery are a common item purchased after knee replacement surgery. They are long enough for the whole leg, provide adequate cushion but more support than a traditional pillow, and best of all they are relatively inexpensive.
If you want to read more, I found the best wedge pillow for after knee replacement and wrote about it.
No. 6 Hiking Poles or a Cane
Whether you’re a young guy/gal or a senior like me, the early days after surgery will take a toll on you. Your balance will be slightly off as you manage the pain from TKR. The pain will gradually subside and your body should quickly adjust to its new knee. Even months after recovery you’ll want some support and that’s why hiking poles are a must-have item after knee replacement.
Even patients in top shape shouldn’t be ashamed of using a little help. A cane in the weeks following surgery will help take some pressure off the knee – although it will put more pressure on your arm.
Hiking sticks can also be used while you are around the house or exercising outside. Unlike canes, hiking poles come in a pair. Feel free to only use 1 or both depending on the situation.
>>read my review on the best walking poles
While walking/hiking they can help with shock absorption. Just as important, they might help you avoid a fall and further injury to your knee or hip.
I’ve used hiking poles for a number of years. They are lightweight so my arms don’t fatigue when using them and I notice my knee is less sore the following day after I’ve used them.
No. 7 A Fresh Pair of Shoes
If you’re like me, maybe you have a pair of shoes that you love. Maybe it’s the look, or maybe their comfortable so you keep them clean and looking like new.
Most people don’t realize it but shoes wear down over time. We tend to get comfortable with our shoes – plus they can be a considerable investment (a good pair of shoes isn’t cheap).
During your rehabilitation, you should be walking and doing physical therapy. Don’t take my word for it. According to Livestrong, running shoes “should be replaced every 300-500 miles”. Of course you won’t be running but even if you walk, you’ll reach 300 miles in no time at all.
For your TKR recovery choose a pair of shoes that are for exercise – these can be worn around the house as well. We like a good pair of Nike Air Max or Hoka Bondi 7 because of the extra air and cushion in the heel.
No. 8 Shoe inserts (Orthotics)
Orthotics are also an option. Are you familiar with how you land when you walk? I typically land on my heel first and occasionally I get a sore heel after exercise. I’ve used heel cups before and they provide the extra cushion my bones need.
If you’ve just had knee replacement surgery, adding a new pair of shoes and shoe inserts would be a wise decision – any extra padding/comfort helps.
Just make sure the shoe inserts don’t cause pain in other places on your body because your walking posture might change slightly. Read more about my shoe insert review here.
If you’re thinking about custom orthotics, try over-the-counter (prefabricated) orthotics first. Research shows that prefabricated orthotics can do just as good as custom orthotics for a fraction of the price. Of course, if you have a unique foot structure (high arches, flat feet, prior surgery) then custom orthotics might be your best bet.
No. 9 Aspirin
Aspirin will also be your friend after surgery. You’ll be on prescription medication for a few days to a week after surgery, however, in the long run, you can use Aspirin to help reduce inflammation and swelling in your knee.
Like any substance, you put in your body, be careful not to take too much and follow the directions closely. Your doctor will likely suggest how to use Aspirin to aid in your TKR recovery.
No. 10 Massage
In my experience, you won’t want anything to do with a massager in the month after knee replacement. In fact, I bet your doctor would advise against an electric massager.
Your new knee needs time to set. The micro-vibrations of an electric massager will likely be painful early on, but it could be useful in the months and years following surgery.
During physical therapy, you’ll have a light massage (with hands) to the area to help promote circulation and healing. Your knee will be tender but after a few months, you should have the strength to be more mobile with less inflammation.
Using an electric massager after exercise could help relax muscles around the knee (we’d recommend not using the massager on the knee joint).
No. 11 Stationary Bike
A stationary bike inside your house might be a great addition to your recovery program. If you live in an area of the country with extreme temperatures (hot or cold) exercising indoors is the best recovery option.
A stationary bike will be part of your physical therapy recovery so it’s a must-have item. It takes up little space and can be placed in front of the television so you can have your workout while watching the big game.
I always kept my stationary bike in the garage and it helped me exercise before I had knee surgery.
Biking is a low-impact way to strengthen and exercise the leg muscles. You won’t be using it in the few weeks after surgery, however, you’ll be feeling better after a month or two and cycling is a great activity for your health.
>>check out the Exerpeutic Stationary Bike on Amazon with 1000’s of positive reviews
We listed it as an “optional item” because it costs slightly more than the other items on our list. I like that a stationary bike offers the flexibility to get a great workout inside and this model folds up so you can move it easily and hide it in a closet or guest room.
In this article, we covered must-have items after knee replacement surgery.
Going into surgery we know you’ve prepared. You’ve done exercises recommended by your doctor, you’ve strengthened and stretched, and you’ve made some purchases to help with recovery.
Don’t be like me and look back thinking “I wish I had used this item”. Recovery isn’t easy and that’s why you want to make sure you have everything available to make the process more comfortable.
On this list, we mentioned a variety of must-have knee replacement items. From the Cryo Cuff and cooler, to hiking poles, to compression sleeves, heating pads, shoes, and orthotics, we brainstormed to share items that you might not have considered.
Some items you may already have, while others can be found online or at your local grocery store.
During my recovery I wanted all the best items to speed up my TKR recovery. I wish I had purchased a few other items. Hopefully, you don’t have the same “wishes” that I had and you’re better prepared.
Thanks for reading this article and sharing in my recovery experience. Visit our homepage for updates and more blog articles. Have a speedy recovery!