How Soon Can I Walk After a Total Knee Replacement

How Soon Can I Walk After a Total Knee Replacement?

For stubborn knee problems such as osteoarthritis, sometimes the only effective solution is a total knee replacement. Less invasive surgical techniques can often be used to treat certain other conditions, but a total knee replacement is often the best solution for a knee joint that has thoroughly degenerated. 

If you are considering a total knee replacement, you may be concerned about how the procedure will affect your ability to walk. Rest assured that while you will need time to recover, people who have a total knee replacement assert that the improvement to their comfort and mobility from a joint replacement is well worth it. In the vast majority of cases, a total knee replacement will make walking easier than if you had left your problem untreated.

Knee Replacement Surgery

A total knee replacement is major surgery and requires opening up the whole knee. During a knee replacement, the entire damaged joint is removed and replaced with a prosthetic joint. To secure the prosthetic device firmly to your thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia), the ends of these bones must be shaped and fitted to metal “cups” on the artificial joint that will hold the joint in place. 

Believe it or not, knee replacement is often performed as an outpatient procedure. However, if there are any problems or your surgeon feels that you need observation due to your overall health, you may have to spend a day or two in the hospital. But whether you go home or have a hospital stay, you can expect to take short assisted walks within a day or two. At first, this might just mean walking from your bed to the bathroom using a walker. 

There should be no pain in the knee itself since it’s a prosthetic device. However, all the tissues around the joint have been disrupted during the surgery, so you will need to take pain medications as those tissues heal. You will also experience swelling in your knee, so you will have to ice the knee and elevate it for several days. Your body will need some time to heal, and extended walking is not recommended early on in the recovery process.

Ensure a Smooth and Full Recovery

You should begin physical therapy within 2 to 4 days of your surgery. These sessions will include stretching and movement of the knee, as well as some walking. You will gradually increase your walking distance under safe, supervised conditions. In addition, you will learn how to stretch and work your new knee to recover a full range of motion. 

During the following weeks, you will probably discover that your knee improves with each passing day. For safety reasons, you should use a walker or a cane for a while as your body recovers and you regain strength and mobility; the last thing you want is to fall and set your recovery back. After about six weeks of diligent work with physical therapy and regular exercise, you should be able to walk unassisted.

After a few months, you will be able to resume more intense activity, including low-impact sports or cardiovascular exercises like swimming and biking. For best results, you will need to stick to your therapy schedule. Missing appointments or skipping sessions because you already feel well may actually slow down your overall recovery. In addition, stretching is essential to obtain a full range of motion. Within a short time, you will find that your knee will work as it should. Artificial knee joints are technologically advanced and robust; your new joint should last up to twenty years or longer.

If you have further questions, we provide answers to frequently asked questions to help you better understand this process. To find out whether a total knee replacement is the appropriate remedy for your knee problems, contact Tchejeyan Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine to schedule a consultation.