Once you’ve undergone rehab and you’re back on your feet, your life will begin returning to normal. You will be able to engage in many activities that were too painful before surgery. During the first year, you should steadily regain strength and flexibility in your knee. If you adhere to your exercise program and stay active, your artificial knee will show steady and ongoing improvement.
It’s important to have realistic expectations about your knee. You shouldn’t expect your artificial knee—as remarkable as it is—to function at the same level as a natural knee. For example, it will not bend as much as your original knee and it isn’t as comfortable to kneel. Most experts say that high impact activities such as skiing, running, jogging, court sports, and contact sports should be avoided. The risk of the device breaking or that you will cause further damage to your knee is real. Even if you are physically able to participate in these activities they are going to contribute to cumulative wear on the implant. This could impact the lifespan of the implant.
It’s common to experience some achiness and swelling—depending on the activities in which you participate following recovery. Many knee replacement patients report some stiffness at the beginning of exercise or after long walks or bicycle rides. Some also experience a feeling of “hotness” around the knee. You may need to apply ice and take over-the-counter pain medication to manage any inflammation or residual pain.
However, staying active helps you maintain strength, flexibility, and endurance over the long haul. Also, exercise helps build bone mass (and contributes to the development of a strong bond between bone and the implant) while reducing the risk of osteoporosis. This is because when you exercise, your compress bone compresses, and this stress causes bone to grow.
Managing your weight is critical. Extra pounds negatively affect your knees by putting additional stress on your joint and can cause your prosthesis to break or wear out sooner. Remember that you are at an increased risk of infection after a knee replacement. As a result, your doctor might also prescribe antibiotics before dental work or any invasive medical procedure.
If you are older than 60 at the time of your surgery, and you properly care for your artificial knee, it will likely last until very old age or for the rest of your life. However, it is important to monitor the joint and receive periodic check-ups. Your surgeon will determine whether, at some point in the future, you might require a revision.
Nine out of ten people who receive a total knee replacement report significant improvements in the quality of their life.