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Rehabilitation Timeline

Day One
Within 24 hours of your surgery, you will begin walking with the aid of an assistive device such as a walker or crutches. Your physical therapist will teach you the safest methods for getting in and out of bed or a chair and up and down stairs. He or she will also ask about your living environment to develop an exercise plan that prepares you for your return home.

You will learn exercises to help strengthen the muscles in your leg and increase movement in your knee. Your healthcare team may suggest that you use a continuous passive motion machine (CPM) that gently bends and straightens your knee automatically. Daily activities may include:

  • Sitting on the side of the bed
  • Walking a few steps with a cane, crutches, or walker
  • Sitting in a chair
  • Transferring yourself to a bedside commode

Keep in mind: Immediately after your surgery, it is normal to feel some pain and discomfort. However, the pain will probably go away relatively quickly and you'll be surprised how soon you’ll be up and moving again. In fact, most doctors like to get their patients mobile as soon as possible after the operation.

Day Two
You will gradually increase your exercises and activities from day one. Daily activities may include:

  • Walking across the room with a cane, crutches, or walker
  • Getting on and off the toilet
  • Climbing up and down 2 to 3 steps

Day Three to Discharge
Each day you will increase your exercises and activities. At discharge you may be able to:

  • Bend the knee to a 90 degree angle, or show improvement in bending the knee
  • Straighten the knee
  • Walk with little effort with a cane, crutches, or walker
  • Move to a chair or toilet without help
  • Bathe and dress yourself
  • Climb several steps

Keep in mind: It is normal to have a low-grade fever for a few days after surgery. The fevers will usually go away before or just after you leave the hospital. Most patients will leave the hospital after a 3 to 4-day stay.

Six Weeks
At this point, you may no longer need to use an assistive device such as a walker or crutches. Your physical therapist will give you a series of exercises to do at home. If you are consistent with your physical therapy, you should be able to resume activities such as returning to work, driving, shopping, housekeeping, and intimate relations (when you feel comfortable).

Keep in mind: Physical therapy will be challenging after knee replacement surgery. It is very important, however, to take your therapy seriously because the more diligent you are during this phase of recovery, the sooner you will regain mobility and return to your daily activities. If discomfort during your therapy session is a problem, talk to your therapist about coordinating pain medication and therapy.

Twelve Weeks
You can enjoy a variety of low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, golfing, bicycling, and ballroom dancing (check with your doctor or physical therapist). Avoid high-impact sports such as running, aerobics, and contact sports, as they can cause damage to the artificial joint.

Keep in mind: Most people who undergo knee replacement surgery enjoy life with less joint pain. However, it's important to avoid high-impact activities that may damage your new joint.

Next: Activity Timeline


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