Whether you are having a knee replacement, knee arthroscopy, or anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, here are some tips that will make your recovery easier and faster.
Anticipate that your mobility will be challenged in the days following surgery. Get your home ready and ask a physiotherapist to teach you how to navigate stairs, bathe while keeping your leg (i.e. surgical site) dry, and create a list of post-operative equipment to have in place before your arrival home.
2. Stay ahead of the pain.
Your physician will prescribe a narcotic medication and possibly an anti-inflammatory. Taking the medications as prescribed will help prevent unanticipated pain in the early days following your knee surgery.
3. Calf pumps.
Move your foot up and down to stretch and contract your calf muscles. The reason for this is to keep the blood flowing in your legs and as a result diminish the chances of a blood clot.
4. Quads sets.
It is important to do quadricep (thigh) contractions (i.e. While sitting on the floor with legs flat in front of you, press your knees down into the ground using your thigh muscles). Contract both thighs at the same time. Exercising the opposite leg improves performance on the operative leg because of cross-innervation of the quadriceps muscle by the femoral nerve.
5. Keep your leg elevated.
Place pillows or a wedge underneath your heel (not underneath your knee). This allows you to elevate your leg above your heart which in turn decreases swelling and helps keep your knee straight.
Using ice (20 min on, 20 min off) or a cryotherapy unit will help minimize swelling and inflammation. This will also reduce pain.
7. Early physiotherapy.
Starting physiotherapy on postoperative day 1-3 is recommended in order to optimize your mobility, jump start your range of motion, mobilize your knee cap to prevent stiffness and scar tissue formation, and get your quadriceps muscles stimulated.
8. Focus on range of motion.
While the first few days following surgery can be challenging, early motion is critical to achieving success. The goal in the first four to six weeks following surgery is to achieve full straightening and bending.
9. Get help.
Having a family member or friend to help you with mobility, medications, meals, and companionship in the early days following surgery will make your post-operative experience more pleasant. The right support goes a long way!
10. Communicate with your surgeon’s office.
Ask your surgeon or his staff when you should change your initial dressing, when you can get the wound wet in the shower, and when to follow-up for removal of sutures.