What Is the Fastest Way to Recover from Knee Surgery?

A doctor revising knee x-rays and explaining the knee joint replacement surgery on a model.

The knee joints are one of the most common to be damaged from injury or disease. Knee replacement surgery is a common procedure, but it can require downtime for recovery. If you are facing a knee replacement procedure, you may wonder – what is the fastest way to recover from knee surgery?

It is estimated that 600,000 total knee replacement surgeries are performed every year in the U.S. There are also other variations of knee joint replacement where only part of the joint is replaced. For many people living with knee pain, joint replacement can offer them relief and greater mobility.

While there are many benefits to receiving a knee joint replacement, it is normal to be concerned about the recovery after surgery. If you are considering knee replacement, recovery time reduction is likely important to you. There are ways to give yourself the best chance to recover quickly after your knee surgery.

Preparing for Knee Replacement Surgery

The first step to reducing knee replacement recovery time is preparing for your surgery. There are some “must haves” after knee surgery that you should ensure you have available at your home. Keep in mind that you will be limited in mobility, so you want to do your shopping before your surgery. Items to acquire include:

  • Leg prop pillow. While you can stack regular pillows to elevate your leg, they do not work as well as a leg pillow. This is a good investment for your recovery time after knee surgery.
  • Ice packs. Ice or cold packs are one of the key factors to help minimize swelling and inflammation to aid with healing and pain. Make sure you have plenty in your freezer to swap out during your recovery time.
  • Cane or walking device. Exercising your new knee will be important, but you may be weak and off balance. A cane, walker or hiking poles can help take pressure off your knee and reduce risks of falls.
  • Compression sleeve. You will receive a leg or knee sleeve to wear immediately after your surgery, but it may be worthwhile to buy a knee compression sleeve. The lighter weight sleeves can give your knee compression and support in the weeks following surgery.
  • Scar cream. While most knee replacement surgeries are performed laparoscopically with small incisions, there will still be scars. Using scar cream on the skin can help minimize the appearance if this is a concern for you.

If you want to reduce your knee replacement recovery time, you will want to follow the basic R.I.C.E. method – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Acquiring and using the must haves after knee surgery items mentioned can help you heal faster and speed your overall recovery.

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How Long Will It Take to Recover from Knee Surgery?

The recovery time after knee replacement surgery is much quicker than in the past. Most patients will spend 1-3 days in the hospital, then either go home or to a rehabilitation facility to begin their recovery program. Rehabilitation and exercise to strengthen the knee usually begins within one day of surgery.

The timeline for recovery can be different for everyone. It depends on how active you were before surgery, your age and other factors. Most patients are able to be standing and walking for more than 10 minutes at a time with or without a cane by week three and well on their way to recovery by week 12.

Most patients can return to light work in about 4-6 weeks. If you have a more strenuous job, it may be at least three months before you can return to work. After three months, most patients who followed through with recommended post-surgery exercises will be able to start increasing their activity level.

When Will My Knee Replacement Feel Normal?

Knee replacement surgery uses a device that replaces the cartilage in your knee and connects the leg bones. While the device can help reduce pain and improve mobility, it does take time to adjust to the new configuration. If you wonder, “When will my knee replacement feel normal?” it may take a year or more.

During the first year, following your surgeon’s post-surgery care instructions is crucial, especially physical therapy. Strengthening your leg muscles and performing range-of-motion exercises can help you move toward full recovery quicker. While most people recover in about 3-6 months, it can take longer to feel “normal.”

For many patients, restoring normal range of motion can take 1-2 years after surgery. The goal is to reach 90-degrees when bending the knee and within 5-degrees of a completely straight leg. Achieving the range of motion desired through physical therapy can help your knee movement feel natural.
A doctor examining a knee joint of a senior man after knee replacement surgery.
What is the fastest way to recover from knee surgery? Prepare for your recovery before your surgery and follow you surgeon’s guidelines to the letter after you get home. Stick to the R.I.C.E. method and complete your exercises every day to shorten your knee replacement recovery time.