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How Long Do You Have Pain After Knee Replacement Surgery?

As you look forward to your knee replacement surgery, you imagine just what it will be like to finally be pain-free. Imagine the activities you can enjoy again! After years of knee pain and trying everything to get relief, you and your doctor decided surgery was your best option. Over 9 out of 10 total knee replacements still function properly 15 years after surgery, so it’s time to jump in. You want to climb stairs, walk, and exercise without knee pain again!

However, the pain does persist for a few months after any surgery. The question is, how long will you have pain after your knee replacement surgery? You need to know what sort of recovery time to expect and what to schedule for your time off work.

Knee Replacement Surgery Details – Why Your Knee Still Hurts

Immediately after your knee replacement surgery you will still have pain, often worse than before the surgery. This is temporary as your knee is on a healing path with a more definite recovery time.

During your surgery, the doctor makes an incision, then moves your kneecap out of the way. They cut away damaged tissues like cartilage, bone, or joint surfaces, leaving only healthy tissue. Then the artificial joint is attached. Before closing the incision, your doctor tests out your new knee by bending and rotating it.

Your tissues all need time to heal after the surgery. So whether you have a total or partial knee replacement the pain levels immediately after surgery and recovery time can be similar for the two procedures. 

Traditional total knee replacements usually require 1 to 3 months of recovery time. During that time, you may use a walker or cane to help you get around initially. In contrast, a partial knee replacement is less invasive, so most patients can walk within a couple of weeks without the assistance of a cane or walker. The incision is much smaller in a partial knee replacement, so there is less blood loss. Unfortunately, though, 9 out of 10 patients do need a full knee replacement. 

After surgery, you’ll have weight-bearing guidelines that outline how much pressure your knee can support. This varies from one person to the next because it depends on the condition of your bones and the type of artificial knee. Most total knees are full weight bearing on the day of surgery.

Recovery time does vary from person to person. Still, pre-surgery physical therapy helps reduce recovery time and your time off work. Contributing factors to recovery time include:

  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Other Medical Conditions

Causes of Pain after Knee Replacement Surgery

Pain after knee replacement surgery is a complex issue, often with several factors that contribute. Patients with arthritis tend to feel more pain and have increased sensitivity levels. High levels of inflammatory responses, allergies, and referred pain can all contribute negatively. For some patients, surgical complications also add to the problem. Some patients have rare issues that contribute to their pain like:

  • Infections
  • Nerve injuries
  • Stiffness
  • Loosening prosthetic
  • Poor rotation or alignment
  • Incorrect size
  • Instability

Discuss the pain you feel with your surgeon and your physical therapist at Summit Physical Therapy in Merrick, NY. This helps appropriately diagnose and treat the underlying problems to get you relief from your knee pain.

Knee Replacement Pain Locations

Knee replacement pain comes from different causes, so your experience of the pain will relate back directly to the cause. Some knee pain is expected from the surgery itself, with bruising and swelling.

Beyond the direct, expected pain, you feel pain referred to other parts of your body other than your knee. Referred pain after knee replacement surgery is commonly felt in areas such as:

  • Hips
  • Lower back
  • Groin area
  • Calves

This is often because of a change in how you stand and the way you walk. Plus, you may feel sore because your activity level reduces as you spend more time in bed or on the couch when you need to take time off work.

Knee Replacement Pain – The First Week After Your Surgery

You may stay in the hospital for one day after your knee replacement surgery when the pain is worst. You’ll be monitored closely and receive prescription medications to manage your pain. Increasingly, we are seeing total knee replacements being performed in an ambulatory center, and returning home the same day. 

Right from the beginning, you’ll ice your knee and receive encouragement to move your foot and ankle. This helps to increase blood flow. Plus, these simple movements lower the risk of swelling and blood clots. Some patients receive prescriptions for blood thinners. Most surgeons recommend support hose and compression boots which prevent additional complications.

You may even see a physical therapist in the hospital the day of your surgery. Most patients are discharged to their homes and will receive Physical Therapy and Nursing care in their home for 1-2 weeks.  You can then continue your physical therapy with an experienced therapist from Summit Physical Therapy in Merrick, NY.

In these early days to weeks, it is essential that the new joint is stretching and exercised. Patients who get up and move around waling and gently exercising, usually have a shorter recovery time. 

You’ll likely need pain medication for the initial 2 to 6 weeks, but this will taper off as  Physical therapy treatments help reduce pain and make it so you can tolerate the progression of stretching and exercises. 

Pain After 3 Months

Some swelling or bruising may persist for 3 months or more after knee replacement surgery. However, it depends a lot on your condition before the surgery. You could find yourself back to your favorite activities within 3 months without the pain you had before surgery.

Chronic pain is when movement or activity is still painful 3-6 months after surgery. About 2 in 10 knee replacement surgery patients develop chronic pain. The pain may develop and even get more intense in the time after your surgery. Talk to your physical therapist at Summit Physical Therapy in Merrick, NY., for help.

Pain After 6 Months

There’s no easy answer if you still have knee pain 6 months after replacement surgery. It can take up to a year for all the swelling to go away. Plus, your knee continues to recover as you continue with your physical therapy sessions. Make sure you talk to your doctor and physical therapist if you still have pain after 6 months. You may require specific interventions.

Pain After a Year

Knee replacement surgery is supposed to help you return to your normal activities. Staying fit by swimming, cycling, or playing golf can help you stay limber, helping you to stay pain-free.

But other activities negatively affect your knee replacement materials. Normal use does make for some wear and tear on the implants. Still, excessive weight bearing, or activities can cause replacements to loosen. Loose knee replacements can become painful. So, avoid jogging, running, all high-impact exercises, and contact sports. 

Knee Replacement Pain Treatment at Summit Physical Therapy in Merrick, NY

Having a knee replacement is one of the more painful procedures we treat. Applying ice packs initially or hot compresses later on at home can help instead of pain medication. You may find that a knee brace helps reduce your discomfort by restricting and stabilizing joint movements, but we generally advise against bracing in most cases. 

Physical therapy also helps reduce pain and inflammation, and restore flexibility. Your physical therapist Summit Physical Therapy in Merrick, NY, creates a customized regimen to condition your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  

If you’re in Merrick, NY experiencing knee replacement pain, contact us today. Our team of experts at Summit Physical Therapy is highly skilled and committed to finding physical therapy treatment options to help you reclaim your pain-free life.

Summit Physical Therapy