You had a total knee replacement. The doctor replaced the worn ends of the bones that connect to your knee (thighbone and lower leg bone) with plastic and metal parts. When you leave the hospital, you should be able to move around with a walker or crutches. But you will need someone to help you at home until you have more energy and can move around better.
Your knee will continue to improve for up to a year. You will probably use a walker for some time after surgery. When you are ready, you can use a cane. You may be able to walk without support after a couple weeks, or when you are comfortable.
You will need to do months of physical rehabilitation (rehab) after a knee replacement. Rehab will help you strengthen the muscles of the knee and help you regain movement. After you recover, your artificial knee will allow you to do normal daily activities with less pain or no pain at all. You may be able to hike, dance, or ride a bike. Talk to your doctor about whether you can do more strenuous activities. Always tell your caregivers that you have an artificial knee.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Rest when you feel tired. You may take a nap, but don't stay in bed all day. When you sit, use a chair with arms. You can use the arms to help you stand up.
- Work with your physical therapist to find the best way to exercise. What you can do as your knee heals will depend on whether your new knee is cemented or uncemented.
- After your knee has healed enough, you can do more strenuous activities with caution.
- Do not sit for more than 1 hour at a time. Get up and walk around for a while before you sit again. If you must sit for a long time, prop up your leg with a chair or footstool. This will help you avoid swelling.
- You should be able to do many everyday activities 3 to 6 weeks after your surgery. You will probably need to take 4 to 16 weeks off from work. When you can go back to work depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
- For 12 weeks, do not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds and do not lift weights.
- By the time you leave the hospital, you should be eating your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt. Your doctor may suggest that you take iron and vitamin supplements.
- Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
- Eat healthy foods and watch your portion sizes. Try to stay at your ideal weight. Too much weight puts more stress on your new knee.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If your doctor told you how to care for your cut (incision), follow your doctor's instructions. You will have a dressing over the cut. A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
- Your rehab program will give you a number of exercises to do to help you get back your knee's range of motion and strength. Always do them as your therapist tells you.
- For pain and swelling, put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin or wear compression stockings. Use compression boots if your doctor told you to. These help to prevent blood clots.