What Is Recovery from Knee Replacement Surgery Like?

May 04, 2023

You’ve decided your knee has become more of a liability than an asset and you’re having us replace the joint. With that decision made, you want to know what to expect during your recovery. Let’s take a look.

You’ve tried everything to preserve your knee, but the damage is too great and you’re tired of limping around on a stiff and painful joint.

Scores of people in the United States find themselves in this same position, which is why nearly 800,000 total knee replacements are performed each year — and this number is on the rise. If you’re joining these ranks, you want to know when you’ll be able to regain pain-free mobility with your new knee joint.

While each person recovers from knee replacement surgery at their own pace, the team of orthopedic surgeons here at Los Angeles Orthopedic Surgery Specialists can provide you with a general recovery timeline.

Moving within 24 hours

You might be surprised to learn that we want you up on your new knee within 24 hours after your knee replacement procedure. The benefits of getting up and moving shortly after surgery are myriad and help with everything from encouraging the flow of healing resources to discouraging inflammation.

At some point during the first 24 hours, a physical therapist will come to your room and show you how to get up from your bed and walk with whatever assistive device we’ve chosen in advance.

We’re also going to place a machine on your leg called a continuous passive motion machine that gently moves your knee joint up and down to ward off stiffness and scar tissue.

Going home

If everything looks good after 24 hours, there’s a good chance you can be released from the hospital on day 2. First, we make sure the incision sites look good, that you’re feeling OK, and that you’re stable getting around with your assistive device. If we’re satisfied on all of these fronts, we send you home.

The next three weeks

Once you get home, we’ll provide you with complete instructions about showering and caring for your knee. It’s a good idea to prep your house in advance so that you can get around easily during the first few weeks of recovery. Bear in mind, it’s likely that you won’t be able to drive during this time.

Your most important objective during the first three weeks after your knee replacement surgery is to participate fully in your physical therapy. These sessions are critical for helping you to get around on your new joint. In addition to attending all of your sessions, please do any exercises they recommend at home.

If you have swelling in your knee during this time, some ice therapy is a good idea.

Weeks three to six

Depending upon your progress, we want to see you walking with confidence and without aid at this point. You won’t be running a marathon, but we can slowly add activities to your roster as you gain confidence and strength in your replacement joint.

You should still be participating in PT during this time.

Six weeks and beyond

Most of our patients are fully functional at the six-week mark, which includes driving. People build strength and mobility at their own pace, but we want to see you getting around fairly easily at this stage. This is also the time when patients can typically start to add more aggressive activities.

Again, this is just a loose timeline to give you an idea of what you can expect after knee replacement surgery. Each person heals at their own rate, and our job is to ensure that the healing is done properly, rather than on a schedule. As a result, some patients may have shorter recoveries, while others have longer ones.

If you have more questions about recovering from total knee replacement surgery, call one of our offices in the greater Los Angeles, California, area. We have locations in Glendale, Wilshire, East LA, Santa Fe Springs, Pico Rivera, Encino, Newhall, Montebello, and Tarzana. You can also schedule an appointment for a consultation online.

Los Angeles Orthopedic Surgery Specialists