In this article, I’ll share my thoughts on things you need after knee replacement surgery. I did research on the Internet and talked to friends who had had a knee replacement but I’ll admit, I wasn’t completely prepared when I came home from the hospital.
During my pre-operation appointment at the doctor’s office and hospital they prepared me well for my surgery. But neither the doctor nor the hospital suggested things I might need after the surgery.
Some of the items I purchased beforehand but others I had to scramble to order or buy after my surgery. I hope this article makes you aware of the necessary items to have after surgery.
If you have them waiting for you at home your recovery will be easier.
Things You Need After Knee Replacement Surgery
Walker, Poles, or a Cane
The one item that you should have in your hospital room is a walker. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, my hospital physical therapist had me up and using my walker 4 hours after surgery.
Thankfully I had a walker in my room ready to go.
I also needed the walker the day after surgery to get from the car to my living room recliner. Once I got home, I used the walker most of the time for the first week every time I needed to move.
You’re not going to be able to walk on your own or with a cane or pole the first few days after surgery. The walker is essential.
When I got to my hospital room there was a new walker waiting for me. I never thought I’d be using a walker.
My experience 40 plus years ago was to leave the hospital after knee surgery on crutches.
The hospital billed my insurance for the walker. I don’t yet know how much it cost but there was no doing without it.
I took it home with me and even though I’m no longer using it my home therapist suggested I keep it as it might come in handy as I age.
The walker has wheels that allow you to scoot around the house. During the first several days I used the walker putting most of my weight on my arms, keeping minimal weight on my knee.
The handles (sides) fold in flat for storage and can easily fit in a closet when not being used. Some walkers have hand breaks, a basket (for carrying items) and a seat that folds down for resting.
I really like the “Drive Medical” walker because it has all the features mentioned above, and still comes at a good price (only $10 more than the most basic walkers).
It has 4 wheels, breaks, a padded chair with a backrest, and a basket for personal items. If you’re age 50-70 this walker would be a wise investment not only for knee replacement recovery but also for future injuries or emergencies.
The Drive Medical Walker has over 5000 positive reviews from customers!
Between 1 and 2 weeks I began walking around the house with hiking poles (or walking poles). I could have used a cane, however, my walking poles were close enough.
The walking poles were long and adjustable to match my desired height. They were also strong so I could rest my weight against them as I walked.
Walking poles are good for after knee replacement and they’ll last you much longer than the recovery period. I plan to use mine anytime I’m hiking or taking long walks.
Check out my article about the Best Walking Poles After Knee Replacement.
My son purchased a wedge pillow for me before my surgery. I had expected to just pile up regular pillows to elevate my leg.
I’m grateful he had the foresight to make sure I had a wedge pillow waiting for me at home. I had directions from the hospital to elevate and ice my knee often and within 2 hours of being home I used the wedge pillow for the first time while sitting in my recliner icing my knee.
Today is day 21 after surgery and I use the wedge pillow several times every day. I always use it when icing my knee whether I am sitting in my recliner or if I am lying on my bed.
I also use it if I’m sitting on the recliner for any extended time so that the knee is elevated.
The first few nights I tried using the wedge pillow while sleeping. I was still heavily medicated and found that my leg felt best stretched out straight on the bed.
I haven’t used it much to sleep in bed but early on I slept a lot in my recliner and my knee was always propped up on the wedge pillow.
I used the DMI Wedge Pillow shown in the picture to the right because it had over 1,000 positive reviews. It worked well for me too. It comes in a blue color and although it isn’t memory foam it is a sturdy pillow that holds its form over time.
The cover is removable and washable. It will also fit both legs if that’s more comfortable for you (I only elevated my right knee).
My recliner does not recline completely flat so I always use a couch pillow under my thigh and a folded bed pillow under my lower leg so that the entire leg was straight especially when I was icing or sleeping (pictured above: one of my best tips for keeping the leg straight and elevated is an extra pillow on the wedge pillow) .
Ice Packs / Aircast / Gel Wrap
Icing is essential after knee replacement surgery. You can fill plastic bags with ice or use frozen peas in a bag like I did years ago.
Having an Aircast and my Gel Wrap made the icing process so much easier.
If you opt for a product with ice, you need to have a well functioning ice machine in your refrigerator or your spouse or friends will be making frequent trips to the store.
Thankfully my ice machine kept up with my need for ice.
One of the great things about the AirCast Cryo Cuff is I only needed to fill the container once a day and it provided all the cold water I needed all day to fill the cast. I saved a lot of money on ice!
The Gel Wrap was even easier to use as it just went in and out of the freezer as needed. I always iced after any exercise and also if I noticed swelling.
I began by icing 5 to 7 times a day and then once I started therapy I usually iced after exercise sessions and before going to bed.
There is no doubt in my mind that it will make a big difference in your swelling. You’ll feel the cold when you are icing (minimal 1 to 2 pain on a 10 point scale) but you will see and feel a big difference as time goes by.
I believe it’s helped reduce my swelling and I have minimal knee swelling in week three of my recovery.
Bathroom (Elevated Toilet and Urine Bottle)
I wasn’t prepared for using the bathroom after surgery – even in the hospital. My first experience 4 hours after surgery was a challenge.
I used the walker for the first time and headed to the bathroom in my room.
My son walked along with me pushing my IV’s alongside. Once in front of the toilet, I was told to leave the walker in front/over the toilet and that it was made so that I could pee while holding onto the walker.
This was my first attempt to urinate after surgery and it took at least 10 minutes to complete the task. It was hard to control my flow and hit the target, medicated and holding on to the walker.
Needless to say, I made a mess. During the night it was much easier to urinate in the hospital provided bottle.
I had pretty much the same experience the next morning during my only other trip to the bathroom with the walker.
When I arrived home I was prepared to improve my lackluster performance at the hospital. The bathroom near my bedroom was much smaller than the hospital bathroom.
I was able to get the walker in the bathroom and again I made a mess.
After this third attempt, I decided it would be easier and less of a mess if I just urinated in the bottle (provided by the hospital) and then poured the contents into the toilet. I repeated this method for the first several days.
It took me 3 days to have a bowel movement and moving from my walker to the low toilet seat took a lot of effort. Getting up was just as challenging.
When I transitioned to a walking pole it was just as hard to sit on and stand up from the toilet seat.
I would recommend that you rent or even buy an elevated toilet seat. I wish I had one, as it would have made things so much easier.
Essential Medical Supply (pictured right) has a handy elevated toilet seat with handles on the side. The seat easily hooks onto your existing toilet seat and raises it by about 5 inches (this is a lot when you’re trying to bend your knee and sit).
I like the added handles and it’s something I definitely could have used during the week following surgery.
My other big challenge was going to the bathroom at night. As I have mentioned several times before I was always thirsty and I drank water all the time.
Instead of getting out of bed, turning the light on and walking with my walker to the bathroom I decided to keep the urinating bottle on my nightstand next to the bed.
It sounds gross I know, but it was the best option at the time!
I used the walker to get off the bed and stand up. I urinated right there next to the bed and saved a walk to the bathroom.
The first 4 or 5 nights I had to pee like this 4 or 5 times a night. Often I would fill the hospital bottle so I kept an old sports drink container on the nightstand as a backup.
After 5 days I only had to get up once or twice at night. By this time I was using the walking pole.
I would turn on the light, walk to the bathroom and pee in the bottle.
Fluids and Pain Medication
The medical team encouraged me to drink plenty of fluid. That was easy to do because I was always thirsty, especially while I was taking the pain medication.
I drank at least 64 ounces of water a day plus other fluids with my meals.
The pain medication was essential for me especially during my early days of recovery.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, the volunteer who wheeled me to my car who had had TKR 10 weeks before told me he switched from his pain medication to Tylenol on the 2nd day and was not able to accomplish much during physical therapy.
He advised me not to make the same mistake. I did not.
Don’t try and tough it out. Take the pain medication as directed until you can slowly wean yourself off. For me, the most important time to take it was before physical therapy workouts.
I believe I was able to accomplish more as evidenced by my continually improved flexion measurements. I took the Percocet on a regular basis, every four hours the first 4 or 5 days.
After day 6 I took less and less Percocet and on day 14-post surgery I took my last pill. I was prescribed 50 pills and the 12 that remained were never used.
Massager After Knee Replacement
After surgery I found myself massaging my thigh above the knee and also behind the surgical knee. I remembered that we had an old electric massager that we had not used in years.
After a few days of massaging my knee using my hand, I tried the electric massager on the lowest speed. It felt great on the thigh where the tourniquet was placed and also good behind the knee.
Soon my wife took over and would to the same areas plus the calf and ankle area below the knee. During the second week she gently began using the massager on both sides of the knee.
It was most effective right before I went to bed.
During my first visit to the off-site physical therapist, he emphasized the benefits of massage (both by hand and by an electric device).
Oregon Scientific (pictured above) makes a high-quality massager similar to the one I’m using. I’d recommend you keep the setting on low and focus on the muscles around the knee, not the joint itself.
The muscles, tendons, and ligaments are shocked after surgery and you’re physical therapy sessions will tire out your leg. An electric massager should help increase blood flow to the area and push out lactic acid (from daily workouts).
Long Shoe Horn After Knee Replacement
Before TKR I always used a small conventional shoehorn to put my shoes on. I did not have good flexion on my bad knee and the shoe horn worked much better than using a finger.
After TKR I only wore socks for the first few days. After my second session with my home physical therapist, I was assigned outdoor walks.
On day 6 after surgery, it was time to wear shoes for the first time.
Needless to say, I needed help with the foot on the surgical knee. My wife helped me with the aid of a small (conventional) shoehorn but I couldn’t use it myself.
That day I ordered an extra long shoe horn and was finally able to put my shoes on by myself. It was a nice feeling to do it on my own and not be dependent on another person when putting my shoes on before a walk.
The long shoe horn, pictured right, is made by the Vive company and sold on Amazon.
Be prepared to use the long shoe horn up to a month after knee replacement or have someone help you put on and take off your shoes!
Don’t Forget Home Care (Someone To Help You)
Remember, you can’t do this alone. If you don’t have family or friends around to help you recover you’ll want to hire a medical assistant (home nurse) for the first two weeks.
If you can afford 3 weeks it’s even better but after 2 weeks you’ll be moving around enough to make food, go to the bathroom, and sleep using only a cane or walking poles.
I’ll admit, it’s tough having to rely on other people to help out but having family around is a valuable resource. I was able to focus on my physical therapy, icing, elevating, and resting, and I didn’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning, or answering the phone/door.
In addition, you won’t be able to drive in the first few weeks after surgery. It will be even longer if you have surgery on your driving leg (right leg in the U.S.A.) or if you use a manual transmission.
When you begin going to a physical therapy office the logistics of driving might be a problem. Of course, you can always hire a taxi or Uber to get around!
I was never advised by my doctor or by the hospital to borrow or purchase useful items for my home recovery. My first bit of luck was that the hospital provided me with a walker (compliments of my insurance company).
Thankfully my son bought me the wedge pillow and the icing Cryo Cuff, which were both essential items that I needed at home. I have used the wedge pillow and the Aircast Cryo Cuff every day since my surgery (day 22 today).
I was also fortunate to have two walking poles at home when I was told to transition from the walker to either a walking pole or cane. Drinking fluids and taking your pain medication will be essential for your recovery and will make therapy sessions easier and more fruitful.
Consider getting an elevated toilet to put over your existing toilet. This would have saved me a lot of pain and uncertainty when I went from my walker to the toilet seat.
If you are a male, consider urinating in a bottle both at night by the bedside and also in the bathroom.
Consider buying an electric massager to use on your leg. You can use it yourself or have a loved one operate it.
The more you prepare ahead of time for your return to home the better and easier things will be.
Think ahead and purchase or borrow the items that will make you most comfortable. Being prepared will also speed up your recovery.
Thanks for reading “things you need after knee replacement surgery”!