Total Knee Replacement Surgery
Your Daily Life After Knee Replacement
One of your biggest concerns will probably revolve around driving again. If your left knee was replaced and you drive an automatic transmission, you might be able to get behind the wheel within a couple of weeks. If your right knee was replaced, you will be back on the road in about 4 to 6 weeks. It may be longer if you drive a manual transmission. In any case, you must be able to bend your knee enough to operate the pedals. Avoid driving while taking narcotics. Check with your doctor before getting behind the wheel, and, if necessary, obtain a disabled placard—especially if you have to walk long distances in poor weather while using a walker or other assistive device.
Adjusting to Your New Knee
There are a number of practical issues and concerns following knee replacement surgery. Knowing what to expect can help you make it through your day more effectively and get the most out of your new knee.
Click “next” to learn how to deal with some of the post-surgery challenges.
Back to Work
Set realistic expectations. In most cases, it will be 3 to 6 weeks before you can return to work. If you work at home you may be able to get back to work within 10 days. However, if your work is labor intensive you will likely require much longer—possibly three months or more. Don’t expect too much from yourself at first. Speak to your boss and co-workers and make them aware of your situation. Try to ease back into full working hours.
Traveling is tough on the body, especially long flights with tight legroom. Stretch and walk around the plane whenever possible. In fact, be sure to get up and walk around a bit once an hour to help prevent blood clots from developing. During the first few months after surgery and prior to long distance travel, you may want to consult with your doctor to be sure they do not have any special concerns.
Airport security—while a hassle for everyone—may become more of a problem after your surgery. The metal components in your artificial knee could set off airport metal detectors. Carry a medic alert card and be prepared for extra screening. Wear clothing that makes it easy to show the knee incision to security agents.
Most patients find that they are able to engage in sexual activity 4 to 6 weeks following surgery. However, it is generally fine to proceed as soon as you don’t feel pain and you’re comfortable.
You can resume cooking, cleaning and other household tasks after you feel comfortable on your feet and you’re able to move around freely. Expect to wait about 4 to 6 weeks before you can fully shed the crutches or cane and get back to most daily activities. It may also take several months to kneel without pain. Consider using a pad to cushion your knees in the meanwhile.
You should begin walking as soon as possible, and use an assistive device for only as long as you need it. This will help you regain strength in the knee. After about 12 weeks, you can begin walking farther and also engage in bike riding, dancing, bowling, yoga, and swimming. Make sure your wound has completely healed before entering a pool. Do not place weights on the leg and avoid doing leg lifts on weight machines for the first few months—and not without the advice of your physical therapist or doctor.
During the two years following a knee replacement, you are at an increased risk of infection. Consequently, it’s necessary to take antibiotics before any dental work or invasive surgical procedure. Be sure to consult with your doctor or dentist before you proceed with any procedure.
Your new knee will make it much easier to engage in a diverse array of activities. However, it’s important to avoid too much stress on the joint. Avoid squatting, twisting, jumping, and other movements that could damage the knee. Also, avoid lifting heavy objects.
Wean yourself from medication, particularly non-prescription painkillers, as you recover. Many medications taken over long periods of time can cause damage to internal organs, including the liver and kidneys. In most cases, a proper diet and exercise regimen along with icing will reduce inflammation and strengthen the joint. This results in reduced pain.
You will have a scar following knee replacement surgery. The size of the scar depends on the type of procedure you have and it will diminish somewhat over time. You may want to wear long pants or longer dresses to hide or protect the wound—particularly in the beginning. Wear sunscreen and clothes that provide protection from sun.
Getting Back to Normal
You will return to a fairly normal routine over time. If you have questions about activities and your body, consult with your doctor, physical therapist or occupational therapist. They can help guide you to better understand your life—and lifestyle—following a knee replacement.