After going through surgery, it’s completely normal to wonder if and when your body will feel like yourself again.
We’ll answer four common questions about the recovery process of a total knee replacement (TKR) surgery. Remember that people come from different backgrounds and go through surgery for various reasons - while some TKRs are due to accidents, most are due to long-term arthritis and degenerative changes to the joint itself. Therefore the answers vary and depend on your personal medical history.
Will I fully recover?
Total knee replacement surgery can improve function, range of motion and decrease pain. Most people are up on their feet within the first few hours after surgery. You will most likely resume normal daily activities within six weeks with some modifications. However, it can take 4-6 months or up to an entire year to fully recover and gain the total benefits of your surgery.
Daily walking, consistent strengthening, and working on your range of motion will help improve your recovery process and the overall results of your surgery.
What will improve and what will stay the same?
Your pain level will most likely decrease over time as the soft tissues heal and the swelling subsides. The range of motion in the joint will improve with daily mobility exercises. It is important to keep the joint moving throughout the day to avoid stiffness. As your balance, range of motion, and strength progress, your gait will start to normalize. If you are dedicated to your exercise program, you should notice all these factors will be better than they were before surgery. Keep in mind that a replacement knee may feel different than a natural knee. You may experience setbacks such as stiffness or swelling as you increase activity and this is very normal. Be sure to find the right balance between activity and rest that is best for you. Moderation is the name of the game.
How long will it take to get there?
Your surgeon did some serious carpentry work on your knee joint, and your tissue is healing. Full recovery for more advanced activities can take up to an entire year. Be patient and remember that with time things will get better.
What can help to increase my motivation and not 'break' during the process?
This is an important question. Some studies found that motivation is the most important factor in determining the length of one’s recovery time from an orthopedic procedure. Staying positive isn’t always easy to keep up in the long run. It’s normal to feel depression, anxiety, pain, stress, and irritability during your recovery process. Different people are motivated by different things. What do you find is helpful for you?
We recommend one or all of the following to help during the process:
• Prepare whatever you can prior to surgery. Any errands you have to run or reorganizing your space to make life easier for you post-surgery.
• Commit to physical therapy and more movement. Set time aside for your self-care daily.
• Accept help. It’s not always easy, but it will help you stay connected to people and not go through this alone.
• Set measurable and meaningful goals for yourself to have something to work towards. Write down your goals and remind yourself of them each day.
• Celebrate your accomplishments! Be proud of yourself for all the small tasks and goals you achieved each day! Sometimes, just getting out of bed is a reason enough to cheer!
• Download the OneStep digital physical therapy app, the only platform in the world that allows you to measure your physical therapy progress and receive meaningful, easy-to-understand feedback, using only a smartphone.