What is knee Replacement Surgery?
Knee replacement surgery is a procedure where damaged surfaces of the knee joint are replaced with artificial components made of plastic and metal. Over 600,000 knee replacements are performed in the U.S. each year to relieve pain and restore function in severely damaged knees.
While knee replacement is extremely successful, recovery is crucial for regaining strength and mobility. Making certain mistakes after surgery can negatively impact healing and increase risks. Avoiding key errors will help get you back on your feet faster.
In this article, we reveal the top 5 mistakes people make during knee replacement recovery so you can be informed and avoid setbacks. By being aware of these key pitfalls, you can follow physician instructions carefully, take proactive precautions, and give your new knee the best chance for long-term success. Let’s dive in and discuss what not to do after knee replacement.
Mistake 1: Not Moving the Knee Enough
It may seem counterintuitive, but consistently moving the knee joint through its range of motion after knee replacement surgery is crucial. Not exercising the knee enough can lead to complications:
- Stiffness – Lack of movement allows scar tissue to form and the knee to become increasingly stiff. This makes mobility excruciatingly difficult.
- Blood Clots – Staying immobile slows blood flow, raising risks of dangerous clots that can travel to the lungs.
- Muscle Atrophy – Sedentary behavior causes weakened leg muscles, making recovery challenging.
- Delayed Healing – Resting too much slows circulation, oxygenation, and nutrient supply to repair incisions.
To keep your new knee healthy:
- Perform flexion/extension exercises several times daily. Move the knee slowly but steadily.
- Walk for short periods using crutches/walker to tolerance, increasing distance over time.
- Do leg raises, heel slides, and other simple leg-strengthening exercises.
- Use devices like stationary bikes and continuous passive motion machines if your physical therapist recommends.
The key is consistency – move the knee a little, very frequently throughout each day during recovery. Follow physician-provided protocols to avoid setbacks from not exercising the knee adequately.
Mistake 2: Doing Too Much Too Soon
It’s understandable to want to return to normal activity quickly after knee replacement surgery. But pushing yourself too far during recovery can jeopardize the results.
Overexerting yourself early on risks:
- Dislocating the joint – The new knee isn’t properly stabilized yet, increasing dislocation risks.
- Fractures – Overstressing the bone before it has fully integrated risks hairline fractures.
- Soft tissue injury – Incisions need time to seal and toughen to handle activity fully.
- Intense pain and fatigue – This causes setbacks and discouragement.
Take a gradual approach:
- Increase exercise intensity, duration, and weight limits slowly over the course of months.
- Use pain as a gauge – scale back if you experience sharp joint pain.
- Discuss your progress at follow-ups – don’t ramp up activity between appointments.
- Avoid higher impact activities at first – focus on low-impact exercises and movements.
Patience allows your body time to properly heal while enabling you to rebuild strength and stamina steadily. Avoid the temptation to overdo it by pacing yourself.
Mistake 3: Not Taking Medication as Prescribed
It’s crucial to take prescribed medications correctly after surgery to manage pain and prevent complications. Avoiding medication mistakes supports healing by:
- Reducing pain – Controlling discomfort facilitates effective exercise and mobility.
- Preventing infection – Antibiotics lower infection risks during the delicate healing period.
- Anticoagulation – Blood thinners minimize the risks of dangerous clots.
- Avoiding opioids – Taking medications as directed can mean relying less on habit-forming opioids.
Tips for medication adherence:
- Use reminders and trackers to stay on schedule with all prescriptions.
- Always finish the full course even if you are feeling better.
- Watch for side effects and notify your doctor with concerns.
- Store medications properly at consistent times and intervals.
Sticking diligently to your prescribed medication routine is vital for minimizing risks as you heal.
Mistake 4: Ignoring Pain and Swelling
Feeling some discomfort and swelling is normal during knee replacement recovery. But prolonged, intense pain and swelling warrant medical attention.
Contact your doctor if you experience:
- Difficulty breathing or chest pain – Signs of a possible blood clot.
- Unrelenting pain – Potential sign of a complication or improper fit.
- Extensive bruising – Can signal blood vessel damage or internal bleeding.
- Joint stiffness or inability to bear weight – May require manipulation under anesthesia.
- Localized swelling, redness, and warmth – Possible indicators of infection.
Don’t downplay or ignore symptoms in hopes they will go away. Promptly reporting issues ensures early treatment and prevention of further damage.
Mistake 5: Not Following Physical Therapy Instructions
Physical therapy is instrumental for regaining mobility after knee replacement. Not participating fully can hinder your progress. Avoid setbacks by
- Attending all scheduled sessions. PT maximizes the pace of recovery.
- Performing prescribed home exercises consistently. This facilitates strength and range of motion.
- Using all assistive devices like canes, walkers, and braces. Proper support prevents falls or injury.
- Communicating struggles or questions. Your therapist can adjust techniques as needed.
- Pushing yourself incrementally. Build endurance safely under guidance.
Do your part in therapy by following your therapist’s instructions for the best possible healing and recovery.
The path to the best possible outcome involves diligence and patience. Work closely with your physician and therapist. Listen to your body while steadily ramping up mobility. Avoid overexertion. And address any concerning symptoms right away.
With proper care and precautions, your new knee should deliver dramatic improvements in pain relief, stability, endurance, and quality of life for years to come. Use this guide to help avoid missteps as you recover. Before long, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite activities again free of knee pain.