Activities After Knee Replacement
After knee replacement surgery, life eventually returns to normal. This takes time, patience, rehabilitation and care. To ensure a successful and full recovery, you need to be an active participant in your recovery.
The days before your surgery are a good time to make sure your home will be comfortable for you as you learn to use your new knee. Some things you can do include:
- Move your furniture so you can easily get around with a walker or crutches.
- If your bedroom is on another floor, you may want to temporarily use a first-floor room as your bedroom so you can avoid climbing the stairs.
- Move any tripping or slipping hazards, such as electrical cords and rugs.
- Install things to make moving around easier, such as a raised toilet, a chair in the shower and gripping bars.
- Purchase any assistive devices you may want, such as grabbing tools or a shoehorn with a long handle.
Replacing the knee, the largest joint in the body, is a major surgery. Although moving your knee early is part of your recovery, it is important to avoid activities that place excessive strain on the new joint.
Moving early is important because:
- Before deciding to have joint replacement surgery, you may have cut back on physical activity because of pain and discomfort. As a result, your leg muscles may already be weakened. It is important to begin strengthening these muscles so they can control and support the new joint.
- Early exercise will help counteract the effects of the anesthesia you were given during surgery.
- Moving the new joint will help encourage the healing process.
There are a number of exercises you can perform both in the hospital and at home while you recover:
The first few days after surgery, you will likely experience pain. Your pain will be managed at first through an intravenous tube that will allow you to control the amount of medication you receive. A day or two after surgery, pills or injections will be given in place of the IV tube.
Other medications you may be given include:
- Blood thinners to prevent clots from forming in your legs. Clots can break free and travel to the lungs, potentially becoming fatal.
- Stool softeners or laxatives to relieve nausea and constipation caused by pain medications.
On the day of your surgery, a physical therapist will teach you how to begin using your new knee. Some patients are fitted with a continuous passive motion exercise machine, which slowly bends and straightens the knee to promote blood flow.
Before your doctor will discharge you from the hospital, you need to accomplish several things with your new knee joint:
- Bend the knee 90 degrees
- Fully straighten the knee
- Use crutches or a walker on a flat surface
- Use crutches or a walker to climb stairs
- Get into and out of bed unassisted
- Perform the exercises you will be doing at home
Before you are discharged from the hospital, you will be given instructions on how to continue your recovery. Some of the guidelines you may be asked to follow include:
- Caring for your wound
Your wound should be kept clean and dry, and you should avoid bathing until the sutures are removed. To reduce swelling, elevate your leg and apply ice. Call your doctor if the wound begins to drain or appears red, or if your temperature rises above 100.5 degrees. If you experience calf or chest pain, or shortness of breath, you may have a blood clot. Call your doctor immediately.
Take all of your medications as prescribed, particularly blood thinners. These are given to prevent clots from forming in your legs and becoming fatal. You may also need to take antibiotics anytime there is a risk of a bacterial infection, such as when having dental work.
Once you are home from the hospital, you should resume eating your normal diet and drink plenty of water. While on blood thinners, avoid consuming too much vitamin K (potassium), which is found in leafy greens, liver, broccoli, cauliflower and more.
Although you should remain active while recovering from knee replacement, you should not overdo it. Over the next six months to a year, you should notice gradual improvements in your strength and endurance. Always be sure to do the exercises your physical therapist recommends, in addition to your regular routine of walking, riding a bike or swimming.
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