Despite the inherent discomfort and inconvenience, knee surgery can be a very positive event. By repairing the damage in the joint, you will be able to regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Depending on the injury, you will possibly be able to return to your prior desired activity level, but only if you actively participate in a successful knee surgery recovery.
If left alone, your damaged tissues will eventually heal after surgery, but if you do not take steps to prevent scarring and re-injury, the recovery process will take much longer and you might not be able to participate in sports or move your knee joint in the same way that you could before the injury occurred. Nobody wants to be worse off than they were before surgery. The best way to ensure that you get back on your feet as fast as possible is to be fully prepared for knee surgery recovery.
In most cases, knee surgery is not an emergency procedure but one that you plan in advance. This gives you the benefit of being able to get organized before the event so you can be as comfortable as possible. So, with all that spare time you have while you’re waiting to go under the knife (or laser), follow these steps to a successful knee surgery recovery:
1. Be Informed
Talk to your doctor about the knee surgery recovery timeline so you know what to expect both at the hospital and after you leave. If you have an outpatient procedure, make sure you get any prescriptions in advance so you can have your pain medication on hand when you need it.
Meet with your physical therapist to schedule sessions prior to the surgery and ask them which activities are prohibited or recommended during each phase of the recovery process so you know what to focus on and what to avoid. You will be spending a lot of time at the physical therapy clinic, so the sooner you can make friends with the staff there, the better your experience will be. (Rumor has it they like cookies and other tasty treats!)
2. Prepare Your Home
You will have limited mobility for the first few days after the procedure, so make the initial stages of knee recovery surgery easier by getting your home ready. If you live in a multi-story house, consider setting up a single-floor living arrangement so you don’t have to negotiate stairs while on crutches. Prepare meals in advance so you can quickly re-heat them and avoid standing for long periods of time while you cook. This is a great time to allow other people to cook for you - cash in on all those favors you are owed.
You will not be able to submerse your knee for about a week after surgery, so be ready to protect the area with waterproof material while you bathe. Many patients find it difficult to get comfortable while sleeping after knee surgery. Gather all the pillows and other bedding you might need to support your body in different positions. Ask your doctor if there are any sleeping positions you should avoid while you recover.
Remember that you will not be able to drive for up to two weeks, so if you do not have assistance from friends or family, make sure you have everything you want or need in your home prior to the surgery. Don’t forget about the entertainment! Make sure you have all your DVDs and video games close at hand, and stock up on healthy munchies for those late-night cravings.
3. Get the Right Equipment
Immediately after knee surgery you will use crutches or a walker to keep weight off the affected leg. You will eventually use a knee brace to immobilize the joint, and then possibly an articulated knee brace to provide lateral support without limiting range of motion. If you don’t already have this equipment from a prior injury, work with your doctor or physical therapist before the surgery to procure appropriately sized devices.
Obtain a cold therapy machine to help control pain, reduce swelling, and promote healing. This equipment is essential for a faster knee surgery recovery and you can use it at your physical therapist’s office, in your own home, or in both places. Ask for Game Ready, a system that is clinically proven to provide more effective cryotherapy than ice alone.
The more prepared you are for knee surgery recovery, the more successful it will be. Take advantage of the time you have before the procedure to obtain all the information you need, get your home ready for at least a week of limited mobility, and procure all of the equipment you will need to optimize your recovery.