Most knee replacement surgeries are followed by a few days in the hospital. Physical therapists will visit you in the hospital several times to show you how to get around on your new knee, as well as how to use a walker, crutches, or cane.
Pain and discomfort are normal post-surgery, and can be treated with rest, ice, and pain medications. Even if you feel better than expected, be cautious: talk to your surgeon in case there are safety precautions or non-prescription alternatives. Opioids should be disposed of at a police station, as they are highly addictive and dangerous drugs and responsible for the growing opioid epidemic.
After a few days, you should be able to take a shower and let water run over the incision. Baths, Jacuzzis and swimming pools should be avoided until the stitches or staples are removed.
Your physician may prescribe white TED hose for preventing blood clots. It is important to wear these 24 hours per day. They’re similar to a tough pair of panty hose, but your nurse should instruct you how to wear them. Avoid any rolling or gathering, and start with ankle rolling/pumping as early as possible to further prevent blood clots.
If all goes well in the hospital, you should be discharged in a few days and are usually sent home. A home health physical therapist may visit you to assist you with range of motion, strengthening exercises, and mobility. Your PT will also assist with the transition into outpatient therapy.
Warning signs to look out for include high fever (over 100 degrees), difficulty breathing and severe pain/ swelling/ redness around or beyond the surgical site. If you experience any of these, call your doctor immediately.
Once outpatient therapy begins, expect your PT to begin or continue your range of motion and strengthening activities. Controlling your pain and swelling are primary goals early on. Restoring your motion can be uncomfortable, but is vital to return to normal walking and daily activities. Getting your muscles to function appropriately can also be a challenge; sometimes they can be quite stubborn.
Your PT will wean you off of any assistive device and escalate your activity level as tolerated. Occasional flare-ups occur as you progress back to full function, but remember that you are not going it alone. Your physical therapist is an expert, and their experience in knee replacement surgery rehab means they’ll get you on the right track!