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Knee to Know: An FAQ for your recovery and what to expect

Are you about to undergo a total #kneereplacement (TKR) or have recently undergone a TKR? We’ve compiled a list of common questions we hear at our practice from our new post-op patients. We hope that this can be a helpful resource and guide to refer to during your recovery process.

Physiotherapy is recommended after a knee replacement
The hydrotherapy pool is a great way to aid joint mobility and decrease swelling after a knee replacement

When can I remove my bandage?

Depending on the type of stitching method and wound healing time, you may be able to remove it at around 10-14 days to about 3 weeks. If you are unsure, make sure you consult your physiotherapist or surgeon.

When should I see a physiotherapist?

You will usually be referred to a physiotherapist by your surgeon or your GP. We often see patients around the 2-3weeks post-operative mark.

Why should I see a physiotherapist?

From discharge, you will continue to do the exercises given in hospital by the physiotherapist and/or prescribed by your orthopaedic surgeon in their pre-op package. However, you will likely still need ongoing #physiotherapy for the next several weeks to help you return to activities more quickly.

Physiotherapy treatment will aim to assist in restoring functional knee joint range of motion (115-120 degrees of knee bend), strengthen your knee muscles and surrounding leg muscles, improve your balance, reduce pain and improve your function during walking, stairs and sport/recreational activities such as gardening, golfing or cycling.

When can swim or use the #hydrotherapy pool?

The hydrotherapy pool is a great way to aid joint mobility and decrease swelling as discussed in our earlier blog post. Typically patients are excluded from using the pool until their wound heals or as advised by their surgeon.

Will my operation leave a noticeable scar?

The scar formation will vary depending on the type of stitching used, pre-existing medical conditions and your skin healing ability.

Taking care of your incision line is important not just for cosmetic reasons but to encourage correct formation, monitor changes or healing issues and prevent infection. Once your bandage is removed, we recommend that you begin firm, friction massage across the scar to help with breaking up raised/red scar tissue. If you have any concerns about your scar, consult your PT, GP or surgeon.

How long does the pain and swelling last?

The pain will begin to settle around the 6 week mark, but this may continue for intermittently for up to 12 months. Swelling of the knee and ankle may take up to 18 months. We advise that you apply ice to your knee for 20 mins on/off every 2 hours in the first week, then taper the icing afternoons or immediately after bouts of activity or exercises.

When will I see my surgeon again?

You will expect to have a review by your GP and orthopaedic surgeon around this time. They will assess your knee range of motion, discuss your current symptoms and pain and may allow you to return to driving. We recommend writing down a list of questions for your surgeon to avoid forgetting any important ones.

When can I drive?

Your return to driving depends on the medication you are currently taking and your knee movement which may take up to 6-8 weeks post, so make sure you consult your surgeon and PT.

Why does my knee feel hot?

The operation site requires more blood supply from the body as part of the healing process, which may result in a feeling of increased heat for up to 3 months. If you are concerned or notice any fluid seeping from the site, consult with your GP or PT to ensure that there is no infection in your knee.

Why does my knee feel numb/pins and needles?

It is normal to have an area of numbness around the operative site – this is due to the damage of small nerves in the skin from the surgery. The numbness will gradually resolve or get smaller. Tingling indicates that the nerves are attempting to regrow and may take up to 12 months to do so.

Can I kneel after my knee replacement?

Most surgeons advise that patients do not kneel after their knee replacement surgery. It is important to know that while your knee replacement will not be damaged if you kneel on it, it will be uncomfortable doing so. If kneeling is necessary to your needs or goals, your physiotherapist will help you do so by recommending a pillow or regular breaks with icing to help manage the pain. If you are unsure about kneeling, consult your PT or surgeon.

When can I return to sports and enjoy my recreational activities?

Usually by the 12-13 week point you are up to beginning exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling and golf. Your physiotherapist will have been working with you on a rehabilitation program to improve your function to return to these activities, so it is important to keep up with the exercises you’ve been given during this time. If you’ve been given the all clear to return to exercises without needing to see the therapist, it is encouraged that you keep in contact with your GP, surgeon and PT to update them if you have any questions, concerns or additional issues to let them know how you are tracking.

How long will my knee replacement last?

The longevity of your knee replacement will depend on your surgeon, your pre-surgery health and rehabilitation and your post-operative rehabilitation. About 90% of first-time knee replacements last at least 15 years, and many last at least 20 years. As surgical techniques and implant types improve, this number will continue to rise.

This is a general guide of recovery and the rate at which your knee recovers may be different from another person’s and may not follow the rate above. We recommend that you follow the guidance of your surgeon, GP and PT along the way and gradually increase your activity levels. Remember, while it is important to keep moving, you are entitled to have “off days” where your knee is feeling more painful and more swollen, and you can have rest days where needed.

What other questions do you have about your knee replacement or what tips did you find helpful after yours? Comment below


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