Don’t Let a Knee Replacement Slow You Down: 6 Steps to Recovery

March 23rd, 2014

Knee pain is very common in seniors. Injuries and arthritis of the knee are typical causes of pain and disability. When your discomfort affects your ability to walk, participate in activities of daily living, and sleep, your doctor may recommend a total knee replacement. The decision to have knee surgery is a “quality of life” preference.

total knee replacement is a dependable surgical technique in which the damaged knee joint cartilage and bone are removed and replaced with a man-made surface of metal and plastic. In a large majority of seniors, pain is considerably reduced, and function is restored for 10 years or more after the surgery. If you’re considering knee surgery, here are six things you can do to help give yourself a smooth path to recovery:

1. Preoperative Exercises

Studies have shown that preoperative exercises aided seniors’ functional outcomes following their surgery. It is important to be as strong as possible prior to your total knee replacement to help you recover quickly and without complications. Common preoperative exercises include ankle pumps, quadriceps sets, heel slides, gluteal sets, short arc quads, and chair push-ups.

2. Postoperative Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is required to achieve a complete recovery from a total knee replacement. Your physical therapist will help you achieve proper knee range of motion, leg strength, and overall strength and balance. In addition, your physical therapist will educate you in getting in and out of bed or a chair, walking with a walker, and walking up and down stairs, says the American Physical Therapy Association.

3. Preventing Falls

The goal of total knee replacement is to return you to a high level of function without knee pain. Falls are a major risk to seniors after knee replacement due to decreased balance or weakness. A fall shortly after surgery can damage your new knee replacement and can create additional complications. If you have a fall, contact your surgeon’s office immediately.

4. Going Up and Down Stairs

Stairs can be hazardous during your recovery if you do not have proper leg strength and knee flexibility. It is important to use a handrail for support and take one step at a time. When walking up stairs, always lead with your good leg, and lead with your operated leg going down the stairs. Remember the phrase “up with the good and down with the bad.” Request assistance until you have fully regained your strength, flexibility, and mobility.

5. Staying Mobile

Walking is the best way to help your knee recover. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons advises the use of a cane, walker, or handrails until you recover. Your surgeon will tell you how much weight you can put on your leg.

Exercise extreme caution when beginning to walk. As your leg strength and endurance improve, you will spend more time walking and gradually put more weight on your leg. Make sure to distribute your weight evenly throughout both legs. To prevent falls during walking, always make sure you wear proper footwear, clear hallways of objects that could cause you to fall, and review tripping risks.

6. Returning to Recreational Activities

Staying active after your total knee replacement is an important way to remain independent longer. Recommended activities include swimming, water aerobics, cross-country skiing, cycling, golf, dancing, chair-based exercises for balance, and building leg strength.