Knee replacement surgery can be necessary but painful. You’ll have 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. Keep reading to find out what adjustments you may need to make.
One of your biggest concerns will probably revolve around driving again. You might be able to get behind the wheel within a couple of weeks if your left knee was replaced and you drive an automatic transmission. You could be back on the road in about four weeks if your right knee was replaced, according to orthopedic research experts. 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.
You should avoid driving if you’re taking narcotics or other medications that may impair your ability to operate a vehicle. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, you should check with your doctor before getting behind the wheel. If necessary, obtain a disabled parking placard — especially if you have to walk long distances in poor weather while using a walker or other assistive device.
Set realistic expectations about when you should go back to work. In most cases, it’ll be three to six weeks before you can return to work. You may be able to get back to work within 10 days if you work at home. However, you’ll likely require much longer if your work is labor intensive — possibly three months or more. Don’t expect too much from yourself at first. Speak to your boss and co-workers to make them aware of your situation. Try to ease back into full working hours.
Traveling is tough on your 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. Your knee may also swell due to changes in cabin pressure. You may want to talk with your doctor before any long-distance travel to be sure they don’t have any special concerns during the first few months after surgery.
Airport security may become more of an issue after your surgery. The metal components in your artificial knee could set off airport metal detectors. Be prepared for extra screening. Wear clothing that makes it easy to show your knee incision to security agents.
Most people find that they’re able to engage in sexual activity several weeks following surgery. However, it’s 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 several 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 meantime.
You should begin walking as soon as possible and use an assistive device for only as long as you need it. This’ll help you regain strength in your knee. You can start walking farther and also begin to engage in other activities after about 12 weeks. Emory Healthcare recommends riding a stationary bike and swimming, as these low-impact activities are easy on your knee. Make sure your wound has completely healed before entering a pool. Avoid placing weights on your leg and doing leg lifts on weight machines for the first few months, until you get the go-ahead from your physical therapist or doctor.
Your new knee will make it much easier to engage in a diverse array of activities. However, it’s important you don’t put too much stress on the joint. Avoid squatting, twisting, jumping, lifting heavy objects, and other movements that could damage your knee.
For two years following a knee replacement, you’re at an increased risk of infection. So you may need to take antibiotics before any dental work or invasive surgical procedure. Be sure to consult with your doctor or dentist before you undergo any procedure.
Follow your doctor’s instructions closely when taking medication, particularly nonprescription painkillers, as you recover. Many medications taken over long periods of time can cause damage to internal organs, including your liver and kidneys. In most cases, a proper diet and exercise regimen along with icing will reduce inflammation and strengthen the joint. This may reduce pain.
You’ll have a scar following knee replacement surgery. The size of the scar depends on the type of procedure you have. It’ll 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 the sun.
You’ll return to a fairly normal routine over time. Talk with your doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist if you have questions about activities and your body. They can help guide you to better understand your life — and lifestyle — following a knee replacement.