Authored by Revere Health

Recovery After Knee Surgery

March 7, 2017 | OrthopedicsOsteoporosis CenterSports Fitness and Physical Therapy

For people dealing with severe knee pain, knee replacement surgery can be a good option. During a knee replacement surgery, your surgeon will attach an artificial joint to the knee to replace the damaged section of a joint.

Knee replacement surgeries are generally for people over the age of 50 or with extreme osteoarthritis, and they’re usually suggested after other treatment methods have been unable to correct pain and other major symptoms.

Advances in surgical technology in recent years have made recovery simpler and quicker, but there are still several things to be aware of. Here are some of the key parts of post-surgery recovery.

Immediately After Surgery

If you’re undergoing knee replacement surgery, expect to be staying in the hospital for about three to five days after the surgery. During the first 24 hours or so, you may be confined to a bed.

After this point, most people are able to stand up and make simple movements of the joint the day after surgery. You’ll have to use parallel bars or a walking device to help you get around in the early stages of recovery, before your body is able to put normal pressure on the new joint.

Most people are able to move around consistently without assistance at about six weeks post-surgery.


Precautions and Home Management

To make sure everything heals properly and that the new joint achieves its full strength, there are precautions you should take after knee surgery. A few of these include:

  • No pivoting or twisting on the new knee joint for at least six weeks.
  • When lying down or seated, keep the knee as straight as possible, and avoid kneeling or squatting as much as you can.
  • Remove throw rugs and anything you could trip on from the floor of any rooms you’ll be in often. Also, keep energetic pets who might trip you out of the way.
  • Limit how often you have to climb stairs—some people will temporarily sleep in a different room for a while after surgery to limit how often they have to go up and down stairs.
  • Use a firm chair with a straight back rather than a recliner when sitting.
  • Follow all directions given by a doctor or physical therapist exactly.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is important for many people who have undergone recent knee surgery. In some cases, depending on the condition of the knee right after surgery, you might spend anywhere from a week to 10 days at a rehabilitation facility.

In other cases, you’ll be sent home and a physical therapist will come to your house. These physical therapy programs generally range between one and two months, depending on the condition of your knee.

There are dozens of exercises that can help strengthen and maintain your knee after surgery, and your physical therapist will help create the best individual plan for you. Your therapy plan might include:

  • Postoperative exercises: These are exercises designed to increase your circulation and get your knees and legs back into basic shape. They include basic leg raises, bends and straightening exercises, and things like ankle pumps and quadricep strengtheners.
  • Stair climbing: Your physical therapist might work with you on specific exercises for stair climbing.
  • Resistance exercises: Once your knee gains more strength, your therapist may introduce you to exercises using resistance, such as light weights or rubber straps.
  • Cycling: Cycling for a few minutes each day can be a great, low-impact way to strengthen the knee. Your therapist will tell you how much you can do and at what intensity level.
  • Recovery: Some exercises may lead to pain and swelling, and your therapist will advise you on how to deal with these as well.

Knee surgeries can be uncomfortable, but with the right precautions and recovery tactics, you can get well enough to return to nearly all of the same activities you were doing before. If you are preparing for knee surgery or are wondering about recovery methods, speak to your doctor.

Dr. Carlson tends to be conservative with surgical treatment, and much of his training is in minimally-invasive procedures, such as arthroscopy. He believes everyone deserves a trial of a more conservative treatment before moving to more invasive treatments such as surgery. Dr. Carlson tries to spend time with patients to better understand their goals and work together to come up with a treatment plan based on those goals and their distinct medical history.


“Knee Replacement Surgery for Arthritis.” WebMD.

“Total Knee Replacement Exercise Guide.” American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.