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Top 8 Tips to Ensure Success Following Knee Surgery

Chuck’s Top 8 Tips to Ensure Success Following Knee Surgery

By Chuck Schulte, PT, ATC

Diamond Physical Therapy

If you have reached the point where there’s no other solution than surgery these top 8 tips will help to ensure success following knee surgery.

1.   Get all your questions answered beforehand.

Any surgery carries with it the potential for complications, and some degree of pain and discomfort. Prior to committing to a surgical procedure:

• Talk frankly with your orthopedic surgeon.

• Express your fears and concerns.

• Get all the answers you need to make an informed decision.

2.  Know What To Expect     

Understanding what to expect each step of the way enables you to focus on the healing process and the long – term goal of living pain free.  Each surgical recovery time is different, but typically

  • You will spend at least a few days in the hospital.
  • Your surgeon may recommend that you spend a few days at an inpatient rehabilitation facility as well.  This is an important step in the recovery process.
  • You will need to practice using assistive devices, like walkers, canes, or crutches and be able to climb at least a few stairs.
  • Once you are able to navigate about, and have a handle on pain control you can move on to the next challenge…going home.

3.  Prepare before surgery

Here’s a few pointers to make your return home safe and allow you to recover quickly.  Make sure:

  • Your home is ready for your return.  Put a plan of action in place.
  • You have someone to stay with you immediately following your release from the hospital.
  • You have sufficient clear floor space to maneuver a walker.
  • You’ve removed throw rugs that could cause you to slip and fall.
  • You avoid using stairs for awhile,
  • You have access to a sturdy chair (one that does not sit too low), a shower seat and grab bars for the bathroom, and a raised toilet seat.

4.  Know what to expect from physical therapy

Before scheduling your knee surgery, talk to your physical therapist to discuss some pre-surgery exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee.  Being proactive will give you a higher success rate for optimum recovery.

Following surgery, as directed by your surgeon, you should begin physical therapy.  You may experience some discomfort and stiffness initially, but it’s important to regain your strength and range of motion as quickly as possible.

The main purpose of a PT program is to strengthen the hip, thigh and calf muscles, in addition to the muscles surrounding he knee itself.  You will also be given and expected to do specific at home exercises during the healing process.

5.  Hang in there

The road to full recovery can be a bit bumpy at times.  When things get tough, remember that your rehab is a commitment you are making to yourself.  Just hang in there, things will get better with time.

Healing is a very gradual process, allow your body all the time it needs to stabilize and get back to your new normal.  Yes, walking ad exercising without the pain you were experiencing prior to surgery is most certainly something to look forward to and something worth waiting for.  And it can be much sooner than you anticipate.

With continued therapy you will find your endurance increasing.  Some degree of pain and swelling is to be expected, and usually relieved, or lessened, by elevating your legs and applying ice.

6.  Stay active

There is no question that staying active will improve your chance for a full recovery.

  • Listen to your body and stop when it hurts too much.
  • Walking, swimming, low-impact aerobics and cycling are all good choices for a long-term program.
  • Avoid high-impact activities such as jogging, basketball, tennis, pickle ball and softball.
  • Your health care providers will be the best judge of when you should resume all of the activities you enjoyed prior to surgery.

Once you are fully recovered, it is important that you continue with an exercise program.  Ask your therapist to recommend a home program that you can follow.

7.   Don’t forget…

Once you have an artificial joint it is important to:

  • Notify all of your health care providers (including your dentist).  Invasive procedures can put you at risk for infection, and antibiotics will need to be taken prior to any future surgical or dental procedures.
  • Avoid air travel for awhile.  The pressure changes in the plane cabin, and the long periods of sitting can cause your knee to swell.  Check with your doctor or therapist before making air travel plans.
  • Keep in mind that having an artificial joint may cause problems at airport security checkpoints.  Metal detectors may activate an alarm.  Always notify the screener that you have an artificial knee.
  • If you do a lot of traveling consider getting a medical alert card detailing your condition.

8. How to AVOID the need for joint replacement.

It is possible to delay the need for a joint replacement by following a few simple healthy suggestions.

  • Keep your weight at a healthy range
  • Wear well fitting, sturdy footwear
  • Follow a low-impact exercise regimen
  • Don’t over stress sore joints
  • Get sufficient rest