How long does it take to recover from a knee replacement?

Posted by: Reform Physical Therapy in Having a surgery? on July 11, 2023

Knee replacements aren’t uncommon these days.

We hate to be vague… but it ultimately depends on the person. There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to recovery, including whether you’re having a partial or total knee replacement. A very rough estimate for a total recovery can be anywhere between 3 and 6 months… but for some people it can take 12 months.

We don’t say this to discourage you! We say this so you can properly prepare yourself, both physically and mentally, to promote the best chance for a quick and full recovery.

At Reform Physical Therapy, you can expect your therapist to treat you based on YOUR needs. There are no ‘cookie cutter’ treatment plans for any injuries, knee replacements included. Your therapist will create a plan with your unique situation, lifestyle, and restrictions in mind. We find that pre-hab plays a key role in your therapist’s ability to best understand how to make your post-surgical recovery happen as smoothly as possible.

Some factors to consider if a knee replacement is in your future:

  • How strong was your surrounding musculature pre-surgery?
  • What other comorbidities do you have that could impact your healing time?
  • What’s your home situation like? Do you have help? Are you able to make it to your physical therapy appointments so you can recover without treatment gaps?

All of these factors play a part…

  • Most surgeons will encourage their patients to go to *PRE-hab* before going under the knife. What the heck is pre-hab? Well, in short, it’s a round of physical therapy BEFORE your surgery that helps you strengthen the surrounding musculature and better prepare your body for the procedure. Some people are strong enough on their own, but for most, the pain has caused them to reduce their activity level which, in turn, leads to a weaker joint. Progressive strength training is typically utilized to prep the joint area and encourage the best chance of recover.
    • In some cases, pre-hab can be efficient in delaying the need for a replacement. Say you have an upcoming family wedding or vacation planned, pre-hab may be a way to reduce your pain and delay the need for a replacement until after the occasion.
    • Start strong, end strong. It just makes sense.
  • If you have other conditions or injuries, they can impact your recovery time drastically.
    • Are you prone to infections? An infection will slow the surgical site which would slow the progression of your stretching & strengthening.Autoimmune inflammatory conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus can also decrease the recovery rate.
    • What other factors come into play? More than we can probably mention. Poor circulation is a big one. Poor nutrition as well, your body needs adequate protein to be able to build new tissue and heal. Diabetes and uncontrolled sugars have also proven to be a hindrance to healing.
  • You’re going to need help! Getting up and down from the bed, couch, and toilet will prove difficult. For a while, you won’t be able to stand to cook meals, let your pet outside easily, or do your laundry. Pushing yourself beyond what your surgeon or PT advise could easily lead to an injury or delay in recovery time. Do your best to line up appropriate help beforehand, whether that be family, friends, or a brief stay in a rehab facility post-surgery.