What to Expect During Your Knee Replacement Recovery

You just had knee replacement surgery, and it is crucial to have a rehabilitation plan in place for a successful recovery. A good plan can lead to:

  • Leaving the hospital sooner
  • Regaining knee strength and range of motion more quickly
  • Resuming independent living sooner
  • Avoiding potential complications

What to Expect During Your Knee Replacement Recovery



Your rehabilitation journey begins right after you wake up from surgery which could be a little as sitting up and dangling your feet over the side of the bed. While in the hospital, your physical therapy will focus on daily living activities, which you will need to move around your home. It would be best if you were standing and walking with assistance within the first 24 hours after surgery.  It is no longer about bed rest like it used to be.


Wound Care

  • Keep your wound site clean and dry and change the dressing as recommended.
  • Do not bathe or shower until you can do so per your doctor’s instructions.
  • Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any draining from the wound site, as this may be a sign of infection.


Pain management is crucial for healing and decreased infection risk. The less pain you experience, the quicker you will perform the exercises key to building your strength and returning to normal activities. It is important to talk to your doctor before surgery about what pain management regime is best for you.

  • Swelling will occur after surgery. Ice your knee at regular intervals for 20 minutes at a time, and keep your knee elevated above your heart as much as you can in the first hours and days after surgery to reduce swelling.
  • Take prescribed painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications to help with any pain and swelling.

Negative consequences that can potentially occur to those who do not continue with physical therapy include:

  • Supporting muscles and soft tissue can begin to atrophy due to nonuse and swelling.
  • Improper movement can put increased strain on the knee.
  • The range of motion can be diminished.
  • The lack of blood flow to the knee area can slow down the healing process.

Most patients can care for themselves and resume normal daily activities within six weeks and drive within three to six weeks.  It may take four to six months or up to an entire year to fully recover and realize the total benefits of knee replacement surgery.

Danny Giles, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon
Duncan Orthopedics

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