Knee Replacement Recovery Time

Sep 25, 2023

A knee replacement surgery is a very common surgery to treat knee osteoarthritis/arthritis. A knee replacement is one of the most successful surgeries known due to its patient satisfaction. If you are considering a knee replacement, you likely would like to return to your daily life and recreational activities without the ongoing knee pain. When the knee pain is so debilitating, a knee replacement should be considered.

Before getting a knee replacement, it is important for you to know what you are in for. Each person is different, but typically full recovery after a total knee replacement is 1 YEAR. 

Yes, that is a long time, but let’s look at the details…
50% of recovery by 3 months.
90% of recovery by 6-9 months
100% recovered by one year. 


Recovery Time for Knee Replacement: What to Expect in the First 12 Weeks

Recovery after a knee replacement surgery can vary from person to person, but there are general stages and milestones that most people go through during the first 12 weeks after surgery.

Immediately after surgery, you will likely spend a few days in the hospital to recover from the procedure and receive physical therapy. During this time, you may be given pain medication to manage any discomfort, and you will be encouraged to start moving and walking with the help of crutches or a walker. A walker is used 90% of the time.

The first week

In the first week after your total knee replacement surgery, you will continue to work on regaining mobility and strength in your knee. Most of the focus of your first physical therapy session will be managing knee pain and symptoms. You will have a lot swelling, stiffness and areas of tenderness. You may need to attend physical therapy sessions several times a week to help you with your exercises and answer your questions. If you are not going to outpatient physical therapy, you might have home health physical therapy, which means your physical therapist will come to your home. Make sure you ask your surgeon prior to surgery which one you will be receiving. You will also need to be careful to follow your surgeon's instructions about how much weight to put on your knee. 99% of the time you will be “weight bearing as tolerated” meaning you can put as much weight on your knee as you can tolerate.

The second week

By the end of the second week, you may be able to walk without assistance, and you may begin to feel more comfortable and confident with your new knee. However, each person is very different at this time. Some need the walker for 1 week and some need it for 6 weeks. Do not get discouraged if you need the walker longer! At week 2, it is important to listen to your physical therapists advice and not do too much too soon, even if you are feeling good.

Week three to six

During weeks three to six, you should continue to work on your mobility and strength with a majority of your therapy focused on improving your knee’s range of motion. Scar tissue starts to get very dense by 6 weeks post surgery so this is key to recovery. You may be able to start doing more challenging exercises and activities with the guidance of your physical therapist. You may also be able to return to some light work or normal activities of daily living.

Week twelve

By weeks twelve, you should be making significant progress in your recovery. You may be able to walk without a limp, climb stairs, and perform more demanding physical activities. However, you should still avoid high-impact activities or sports that could put too much stress on your knee.


Knee Replacement Recovery Time: What to Expect 3-6 month post surgery

Reduced Pain and Swelling

One of the most noticeable improvements that patients are likely to experience during the 3-6 month post-surgery period is a significant reduction in pain and swelling around the knee joint. This is because the initial healing process is mostly complete, and the tissues and structures around the knee have had time to adjust to the presence of the new implant. This reduction in pain and swelling can have a significant impact on the patient's quality of life, allowing them to engage in more activities and exercises as part of their rehabilitation program. But…at 3-6 months, you won’t be quite satisfied with your knee. Symptoms still arise if you do too much and don’t take time to rest.

Improved Mobility and Function

Another key improvement that patients are likely to notice during the 3-6 month post-surgery period is an improvement in their mobility and function in the affected knee joint. This can manifest as an increased range of motion, improved strength and stability, and greater overall function in the knee joint. Patients may be able to perform activities that were previously difficult or impossible, such as walking longer distances or climbing stairs, which can have a significant impact on their independence and overall quality of life.

Increased Activity Levels

As patients continue to progress through the post-surgery recovery period, they may be able to gradually increase their activity levels and engage in more challenging exercises or activities, depending on their individual circumstances and the recommendations of their surgeon and physical therapist. This can help further improve their mobility, strength, and overall function in the knee joint, while also allowing them to enjoy a more active and healthy lifestyle.

Challenges and Complications

While the 3-6 month post-surgery period can be a time of significant progress and improvement for patients, it is important to remember that there may also be challenges and complications that arise during this time. For example, some patients may experience continued pain or discomfort in the artificial knee joint, even after the initial healing period is complete. Others may experience complications such as infection or implant failure, which can require additional surgery or treatment. This is very rare.

Will I need to use crutches or other assistive devices after knee replacement surgery?

Yes. After a total knee replacement, 99% of patients are using some sort of assistive device, usually a walker or crutches. Crutches will be reserved for someone with good balnace. A walker is for someone who is less mobile and needs a more stable device to get around. If you are concerned at all about falling, a walker is the best option.

The kind of assistive device you need following knee surgery varies depending on the situation, but common equipment includes:


How long does a knee replacement last?

The longevity of a knee replacement can depend on several factors, including the patient's age, activity level, weight, overall health, and the type of implant used. Generally, knee replacements are expected to last at least 15-20 years, but some may last much longer.

Studies have shown that newer implant designs and materials can lead to longer-lasting knee replacements. For example, some implants are now made with more durable materials like ceramics or advanced plastics, which can reduce wear and tear on the implant components over time.

However, it's important to note that even with the most advanced technology, knee replacements are not designed to last forever. Over time, the implant may wear down, become loose, or develop other complications that require revision surgery. Therefore, patients should continue to see their orthopedic surgeon regularly after surgery and follow their recommendations for maintaining the health and function of their new knee.

To maximize the longevity of your new knee, it is important for patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow their surgeon's recommendations for post-surgery care. This includes engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding activities that put excessive stress on the knee joint.

Patients should also attend follow-up appointments with their surgeon and have regular X-rays or other imaging tests to monitor the condition of the implant. If any problems are detected, revision surgery may be necessary to replace or repair the implant.

In addition to lifestyle factors, the skill and experience of the surgeon performing the knee replacement can also play a significant role in the long-term success of the procedure. Patients should choose an orthopedic surgeon who has experience in performing knee replacements and who is using the latest techniques and technologies to ensure the best possible outcomes.


How soon can I stand up or walk after knee replacement surgery?

You can walk on your new knee right after surgery - within the first 24 hours with the help of a physical therapist. The physical therapist will typically work with the patient to help them stand up and take a few steps with the aid of crutches or a walker. It is important to walk after surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots.

Initially, patients may experience some discomfort or pain when walking or standing, but this can usually be managed with pain medication and other treatments such as icing or elevation of the affected leg. Patients should expect to use crutches or a walker for several weeks after surgery while their knee heals. The amount of weight that can be put on the affected leg will depend on the specific recommendations of the surgeon and physical therapist, as well as the patient's individual circumstances.

How long will I need physical therapy after knee replacement surgery?

The length of physical therapy needed after knee replacement surgery can vary depending on several factors, including the extent of the surgery, the patient's age and overall health, and the goals of the rehabilitation program. However, most patients require several weeks or even months of physical therapy to help them regain strength, mobility, and function in the affected knee.

Typically, patients will begin physical therapy in the hospital or outpatient clinic within a few days after surgery. During the initial stages of each physical therapy session, the focus will be on reducing swelling and pain, improving range of motion, and gradually increasing strength and mobility in the knee joint.

As the patient progresses through the recovery process, the physical therapy program may become more intensive and focused on specific activities and exercises designed to improve balance, coordination, and endurance. The physical therapist may also have physical therapy exercises incorporate other modalities, such as electrical stimulation or massage, to help reduce pain and promote healing.

The length of the physical therapy program will depend on the patient's progress and individual circumstances. Most patients will require physical therapy for at least several weeks after surgery, with some requiring several months or even longer to achieve optimal function and full recovery.


What to Expect Before Your Surgery

Before knee replacement surgery, patients can expect to undergo several pre-operative tests and consultations to ensure that they are a good candidate for the procedure and to help prepare them for the surgery and recovery process.

Some of the things patients can expect before knee replacement surgery include:

  1. Medical evaluation: Patients will typically undergo a thorough medical evaluation to assess their overall health and identify any potential risk factors or complications that may need to be addressed before surgery.

  2. Imaging tests: Patients may undergo X-rays, MRI scans, or other imaging tests to help evaluate the extent of the damage to the knee joint and to help guide the surgical plan.

  3. Blood tests: Patients may need to have blood tests to assess their blood count, blood type, and other important factors that may affect their surgery and recovery.

  4. Medication adjustments: Patients may need to adjust or stop certain medications before surgery to help minimize the risk of bleeding or other complications during the procedure.

  5. Physical therapy: Some patients may be advised to undergo therapy before surgery (AKA: Prehab!!) to help improve their strength and mobility in the affected knee and to help prepare them for the post-surgery rehabilitation process. Prehab course here

  6. Pre-operative education: Patients will typically receive information and instructions about the surgery, including what to expect during and after the procedure, as well as tips for managing pain and other symptoms during the recovery period. Pre-surgery course here

Overall, the pre-operative process is designed to help ensure that patients are prepared for the surgery and have the best possible outcomes from their knee replacement procedure. Patients should be sure to follow their surgeon's instructions closely and ask any questions they may have about the process or the surgical procedure.


We have a courses available to help you [SUCCEED] with your new knee.

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