Q: I’m planning on getting a knee replacement. What does the recovery look like, exactly? What should I expect?
A: Physical Therapy. Physical Therapy. Physical Therapy. Initial pain management is through a combination of oral and/or IV narcotics, non-steroidal inflammatory drugs, and nerve blocks/local injectable narcotics. Patients are allowed to put their full weight on their knee immediately after a total knee replacement. Most patients begin walking on the same day of surgery. By post-operative day 2 or 3, you should expect to be able to mobilize independently, continuing your pain medication only by mouth. When you are discharged, you will be referred to either outpatient or home health physical therapy. At this stage in your recovery, you should already have a knee flexion at a 90 degree angle or greater. With continued physical therapy focused on improving knee range of motion and strength, patients normally see significant improvement somewhere between week four and week six.
After three months of physical therapy, patients can expect to be 90 to 95% recovered. The entire process takes an extraordinary amount of patience and hard work – I frequently tell my patients that it may be one of the hardest things they ever do, but the good news is that it may also be one of the most rewarding. Did I mention that physical therapy is important?