How long is the recovery after a knee replacement?

A person’s recovery and rehabilitation plan is important in determining the overall success of knee replacement surgery. A rehabilitation plan ensures that the client regain knee strength and range of movement quickly, avoid potential complications and resume independent living.

Typically, patients may be able to leave hospital 3-5 days following knee replacements. The intensive rehabilitation happens in the first 6 weeks post-operation. However, it is important to be aware that the rehabilitation is an ongoing process and can take 6-12 months for full recovery. One’s recovery often depends on their overall health condition, function, movement and strength around the knee prior to the surgery.

It is important to get the rehabilitation plan right from the start as this will determine your long-term recovery. The first 6 weeks after surgery, Own Body mobile physiotherapists take care of the following:

Transition from hospital to home

We will be there to assist you through a smooth transition from hospital-stay by providing coping strategies in:

  • Getting on and off the bed easily
  • Standing up from and sitting down on chairs with the right height
  • Going up and down stairs safely with less pressure on the knee
  • Walking safely with or without aids around your home

The less pressure and strain around the knee while the wound is healing, the quicker and easier the rehabilitation will be for you.

Pain and swelling

Certain amount of pain and swelling is normal after a major operation. We refer on to other health professionals (surgeon, general practitioners) when it is not within normality. Uncontrolled pain can make it difficult to participate in rehabilitation exercises and can lead to chronic pain. Together with other team of health professionals, we develop a pain management program that works for the client and make adjustments as required.

One of the ways of managing pain and swelling is through finding the right balance between icing and elevation of the knee, with a reasonable amount of walking and exercises. Tolerable level of pain may be present when doing the exercises, however, this is expected to improve as your knee gets stronger and more mobile. This may take anytime between 6-12 weeks.

Walking and gait aids

As dedicated therapists, we also advise on walking distance and progression of gait aids (crutches, walking stick or frame) as patients often are discharged home with forearm crutches to help with their walking. We will work towards achieving your goals of improving your walking pattern and educate you on the safest way to wean of your gait aids.Relevant feedback are given to avoid compensatory or the wrong habits of walking. Furthermore, we provide advice on how far you should walk to slowly build your endurance back.

Strengthening and flexibility exercises

We will prescribe physiotherapy exercises to strengthen the muscles around the new knee. These exercises will:

  • Help to protect the new knee as muscles get stronger and more flexible
  • Increase the amount of blood flow that will promote healing
  • Improve the movement of the knee so it is easier for you to function inside and outside the house

This will be the bulk of the rehabilitation that you need to focus on. Exercise dosage and types will be tailored to you and your goals to ensure effectiveness and relevance of the program. Perseverance is key with any knee rehabilitation. We will be celebrating achievements no matter how big or small they may be!

Other complications

With any wound or major surgical procedures, there is always risk of infectious bacteria entering through a cut. We will pay the attention required to avoid infection and escalate it to the relevant health professionals when necessary. We pride ourselves in maintaining open and instant communication with surgeons, referrers and GPs regarding your progress. We make sure everyone is in the loop and follow-up appointments are in place so that you are on the right track.

Contact our friendly Own Body team on (03) 9696 2639 if you have any enquiries regarding home-based physiotherapy services surrounding knee joint replacements.