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What Can I Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery?

What Can I Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery?

Across the United States, surgeons perform more than 700,000 knee replacements every year. Our team at Silicon Valley Orthopaedics, located in Fremont, Menlo Park, and Los Gatos, California, recommends a knee replacement when arthritis or injury has severely damaged the joint and simple activities of daily life, including walking and stair climbing, become difficult. 

Our providers, George Thabit, III, MD, Nic Gay, MD, Masi Reynolds, DO, and April Mancuso, MD, may also recommend the surgery if you feel knee pain while sleeping or lying down and nonsurgical treatments, like injections and medications, fail to offer relief. 

Advanced technology makes total knee replacement a safe, effective, and manageable surgery. 

Even though you know you need the surgery and want your pain to resolve, heading into any surgery can be scary. 

Our providers want to help manage your expectations after knee replacement surgery. Here’s what to expect during healing and for your long-term knee health and function.

Immediately after surgery

In the first hours after surgery, you wake up from anesthesia and the feeling returns to your legs. Our team uses a pre-emptive nerve block to minimize sensation for up to a day or two so immediate pain is blunted. 

Your nurse applies ice and elevates your knee. They also deliver medications for pain control. 

If your pain is under control and your vitals return to normal, you’ll be asked to stand up and walk a short distance with support from a walker and a nurse. Some people go home on the same day as their surgery. 

One week later

Most likely, you’ll be walking using the support of a walker or cane. You can negotiate stairs and get out of bed on your own. You may still need assistance when taking a shower, getting dressed, preparing meals, or moving from lying down to standing. 

As you heal, you apply ice regularly and compress the knee at the surgical site using a stocking or wrap. We may also prescribe a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine that slowly moves the affected leg and knee joint. You lie on your back while the machine slowly bends and straightens your leg. 

You will have some swelling, bruising, and redness around the incision site. It can sometimes be difficult to sleep through the night due to pain and medication use. Trust that your sleep patterns will return to normal over time. Nap regularly and be kind to your body as it heals.

One month after surgery

Expect to still have some swelling about four weeks following surgery. Icing and pain medications may still be required to ease discomfort, but you have likely transitioned off all narcotics.

If you have a desk job, you can return to work. If your job requires manual labor or for you to stand a lot, you’ll still need to take time off. 

You’ll be able to run errands, such as grocery shopping, but will most likely need someone to drive you.

You should have started physical therapy by this point, if you haven’t started sooner. 

12 weeks after knee surgery

After about three months, you may still have some minor stiffness, but most people can walk without assistance. You can return to work and begin exercising again with modifications. Riding a stationary bike with light resistance or pedaling on an outdoor bike on a flat surface are good options.

You’ll still notice aching and swelling, especially when you wake up or stand after long periods of sitting. 

One year later

Complete recovery from knee replacement takes a full year. You should feel fully functional and have a full range of motion. 

Expect to hear clicking but not experience pain. The clicking is just the sound of the metal and plastic parts of the replacement joint separating and reconnecting as you move. 

Long-term limitations

Although a knee replacement relieves pain and helps you regain functional movement, some actions could be limited. These include:

Remember, everyone’s case is different, and you may experience recovery differently depending on your fitness level and health going into surgery. Our surgeons help you understand your personal timeline and how to best prepare in advance to expedite healing and recovery.

If you have symptoms that suggest you need a knee replacement, make an appointment at Silicon Valley Orthopaedics. We can offer a proper diagnosis, start with conservative treatments, and provide expert surgery when necessary. Schedule by calling or using this website.


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