Knee Replacement Information - Recovery

Knee Replacement Information : Recovery

How long before I can resume daily life activities?

As with any surgery, recovery times from a knee replacement vary from patient to patient. Some people can resume some daily life activities in a few weeks, while others may take several months. Adhering to a prescribed exercise and recovery plan helps get patients back into their routine sooner, with few complications.

Upon returning home, patients are advised to stay active and be careful not to overexert. It’s always best to follow the instructions of doctors and physical therapists, but here are some general guidelines that may also be helpful.

Fast Facts

Here are some interesting facts about knee replacement surgery from American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS).

  • Knee replacement surgery is one of the most important orthopedic surgical advances of the twentieth century. Approximately 581,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States.
  • More than 90 percent of knee replacement patients experience a dramatic reduction of pain, and a significant improvement in performing every day activities.
  • Recommendations for total knee replacements are based on a patient’s pain and disability, not age. Most patients who undergo the procedure are age 60 to 80.
  • The complication rate following total knee replacement is low. Serious complications, such as a knee joint infection, occur in fewer than 2% of patients.
  • The current ten-year survival rate for most modern knee replacement systems ranges from 90% – 95%.

Weight-bearing activities

Knee-replacement patients can usually put some weight on the affected leg soon after surgery, using a supportive aid like a cane, walker or crutches. These aids are often used for four to six weeks to help muscles recover and strengthen. Instructions will be given about the use of these devices, and how soon the knee can bear weight without the risk of injury or destabilizing the implant.


Most patients can begin driving an automatic shift car within four to eight weeks following a knee replacement, provided they are no longer taking narcotic pain medication.

Climbing stairs

If possible, stair climbing should be limited until adequate healing has begun. If using stairs is unavoidable, the unaffected leg should step up first, followed by the affected leg. The supportive aid will come up last. To go do down stairs, the process is reversed: place the aid on the lower step first, then the affected leg, then the unaffected leg.

Will I require physical therapy?

Yes. After a knee replacement, physical therapy plays a very important role in recovery and rehabilitation. Providing there are no complications, treatment typically begins soon after surgery, starting with simple, assisted movements and activities. After returning home from the hospital, most people receive therapy several times per week until treatment goals are attained. Some patients are referred to an outpatient physical therapist or rehabilitation hospital. Typically, physical therapists coordinate with the operating surgeon to improve range of motion, strength and weight bearing ability. They also demonstrate safe and proper movement for standing, sitting, climbing stairs and getting in and out of cars.

What activities I should avoid?

During rehabilitation, patients must be careful not to engage in activities that could aggravate or dislocate their newly implanted knee. Pivoting or twisting on the affected leg should be avoided for six to twelve months. But to prevent complications or re-injury, the operating surgeon should confirm the clinically appropriate interval. High-impact sports that involve running or jumping should be avoided. Regular, frequent, low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, golf, hiking and biking are recommended to restore strength and mobility, and to reduce the risk of dislocation.