Growing older can lead to complications in our health and mobility. Perhaps you’re experiencing pain in your hip or knee, making it difficult to perform daily tasks such as climbing up and down stairs, walking your dog or going on an afternoon shopping trip with your friends. This type of pain can even bring challenges to maintaining your independence as you age. Fortunately, elective surgeries like knee replacements are very common in people age 65 and older.
A knee replacement, or arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure to resurface a knee damaged by arthritis or severe injury. As one of the most common elective surgeries in the United States, around 400,000 people choose to have total knee replacements every year. Regardless of whether a total knee replacement or minimally-invasive partial knee replacement is performed, the goals are the same: pain relief and increased mobility and function.
After you have made the decision and undergone elective knee replacement surgery, the recovery process to get back on your feet begins. During this period, physical therapy becomes essential to promote quick healing and increase chances for long-term success.
Here is a timeline of what to expect during the critical recovery period following your knee replacement surgery:
Rehabilitation of the knee begins almost immediately following your surgery. Within the first 24 hours, you will be on your feet and be using a walker or assistive device, as a major part of the recovery relies on getting up and using your knee as soon as possible. You’ll start your physical therapy program, in which a physical therapist will assist in the process by providing exercises to help strengthen the muscles and guide you through daily tasks such as bathing, dressing and getting out of bed.
Around 5 days after the surgery, you will be evaluated for discharge from the hospital and may move home or into a rehab center to continue working with a physical therapist. By the time of discharge, the goals are to get in and out of bed with the least number of assistive devices possible, walk at least 25 feet, go up and down stairs using a walker or crutches, successfully bend the knee at 90 degrees, and be able to perform sit and stand transfers.
By the third week of recovery, you should expect to be back home or in a rehab facility following a daily exercise routine. As a result, you will likely experience reduced pain and increased mobility without the support of assistive devices.
Swelling and inflammation should be reduced by the fourth to sixth week of the recovery process. If you have been following a daily exercise regimen you should notice a dramatic improvement in knee function and begin returning to the everyday activities that may have been difficult prior to surgery. You will no longer rely on assistive devices to get around and should be able to go on long walks without pain.
Week 12 and Beyond
At three to four months post-surgery you should be experiencing 100 percent less pain and have completely returned to your normal hobbies or activities such as golfing, shopping, hiking, etc. However, it is recommended to avoid high-impact exercises during the first year to prevent any damage to the knee or tissue surrounding it. The typical knee replacement recovery period can be anywhere between three to 12 months. If at any point throughout the recovery you experience complications with stiffness, swelling, pain or unusual movement of the knee, consult your doctor immediately.
Peabody’s Rehab to Home program creates daily moments of success following an illness, injury or surgery. Experience state of the art equipment and amenities at our Billie Jane Strauss Wellness Center including private treatment rooms, a Hydroworx® pool for aqua therapy, Biodex Balance System®, and other strength and endurance equipment. Our highly-skilled team of physical therapists have a proven track record of success and ensure you get the help you need, when you need it, to get you back to enjoying life sooner.
Since most doctors require those recovering from knee surgery to participate in therapy seven days a week, The Rehab to Home program at Peabody offers therapy all seven days. For more information on our services following a knee replacement, please contact us today by calling (260) 982-8616.