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When you finally decide to go ahead with a knee replacement, you can get bombarded with a lot of information from friends, family, and hopefully the surgeon. When it comes to friends and family, most of the information you will get are opinions though they mean well you get very little fact. The time it took for their knee to heal can vary and unless they had the knee operated on within the last 4-6 months the information you get may be inaccurate.

Your surgeon may or may have not discussed with you some of the experiences you will encounter when, it comes to the actual amount of time it will take for the knee itself to be completely healed.

During the healing process your knee will go through what I consider three phases from a rehabilitation standpoint. The phases are the acute phase, the post-acute phase, and the long term healing phase.

These are phases that I have discovered are important for a patient to understand. The time I feel to discuss them with the patient is not only prior to surgery but, again after surgery as there will be information during the pre-operative briefing that will not be retained.

In general the phases mentioned above tend to play out for the patient in the following way:

1. Acute Phase: This is without question the most painful. It lasts from the day of surgery out to week six.. This time can vary from patient to patient but by week five there is a noticeable decrease in pain. The knee will go through the swelling phase and “throbbing phase” when it comes to pain. It is vital that your understanding and compliance with pain control measures are followed. The use of ice before and after rehabilitation are recommended along with foot elevation to keep the swelling to a minimum. Sleepless nights are generally in store in not un-heard of due to pain. The best measure found to relieve the pain you will encounter during sleep is to move or pump the knee back and forth five to ten times as the knee gets stiff and the spasms occur.

2. Post-Acute Phase: This phase kicks in from roughly week seven to week twelve. Here is where you begin to get a better handle on how to control the swelling and you also have learned as well how temperamental the knee can be. In other words as you become more active the knee will fool you. You will be tempted to do more then the knee is ready to handle physically. if you take on more then the knee is prepared for, the next day you will pay the price in increased pain and swelling. The use of pain medication though not as frequent is still advised. You should at this point be up on a single point cane and away from the walker which with the new found freedom add to the subtle ability to overwork the leg.

3. Long Term Healing Phase: This is the phase that most orthopedic surgeons will tell you will take close to a year for the knee to be totally healed. You will be able to however to do most anything within reason at this point unless it involves a high-impact activity like constant running and jumping. Pain, swelling, and muscle spasms at this point have completely subsided. You will have obtained all the range of motion of the knee that you will get. Your strength gains however can always be improved in the muscles surrounding the knee. Your walking pattern has now been established and the knee can and will endure most anything you ask it too.

There will always be some differences among patients when it comes to set time frames with pain and recovery. Having a total knee replacement is considered a major surgery and the advances made in surgery have shorten the time frame by weeks if not by months with some.

The key to joint replacement recovery is patience. By having some patience you develop a stronger more pain free recovery instead of pushing yourself to the edge of suffering from chronic pain and overall physical breakdown.

Richard Haynes PTA

Punta Gorda, Florida

http://www.richardhaynes.com

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