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People decide to undergo a knee replacement surgery when they are in pain and are no longer able to take part in their everyday life activities. It is a highly effective surgery, and most people have less pain and are able to be more physically active after the surgery. This blog will discuss what to expect during the first year after a knee replacement surgery.

Before Surgery

  • Many people often feel pain and reduced function in their knee before their operation, which urges people to undergo surgery in the first place.

1 Month After Surgery

  • People had the same amount of pain as they did before surgery (the average pain experience was a 2.8 on a 10.0 scale of pain).[1]
  • A pain scale is a way to ask people about their pain. Typically a pain scale is rated from a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 = no pain and 10 = worst possible pain a person has experienced.
  • People do worse on activities like walking, climbing stairs, balancing than they did before surgery.[1]
  • People also had less range of motion of the knees than they did before surgery.[1]

3 Months After Surgery

  • People had less pain (the average pain experience was a 0.4 on a 10.0 scale of pain).[1]
  • People did activities like walking, climbing stairs, balancing as well as they did before surgery.[1]
  • People had same range in knee extension (straightening the knee) as the did before surgery.[1]
  • People still had weaker quadriceps (thigh muscles at the front of your leg) and less range in knee flexion (bending the knee) than they did before surgery.[1]
  • People were still not able to do any of these activities at the level of a normal healthy adult.[1]

6 Months After Surgery

  • People feel the same amount of pain as they did at the 3 month mark (the average pain experience was a 0.5 on a 10.0 scale of pain).[1]
  • People did activities like walking, climbing stairs, balancing as well as they did 3 months after surgery.[1]
  • People had same quadricep strength as they did before surgery.[1]
  • People still had less knee flexion than they did before surgery.[1]

1 Year After Surgery

  • Overall, people had improved pain and quality of life at the 1 year mark.[1]
  • However, people’s walking speed, stair climbing speed, and quadricep strength were still less than that of a healthy adult.[1]
  • Many people also report difficulty kneeling, squatting, moving laterally, turning, cutting, carrying loads, stretching, weight training their legs, playing tennis, dancing, gardening, and participating in sexual activity in comparison to healthy adults.[1]

Feeling pain during the recovery process can easily lead people to believe that their surgery was a failure, when this is in fact not always the case. Pain is a normal part of the recovery journey of any surgical procedure, and physical therapy can help address this alongside medications prescribed by your doctor. Sometimes, pain can even be a necessary evil in returning to proper functioning. The blog “Should I be experiencing pain when I do my rehabilitation exercises?” is a great guide to explaining what this actually means.

One key thing to note is that this timeline reflects the experiences of people who received regular physical therapy. The reality is that the majority of people do not receive a referral to physical therapy, and only 26% of people actually receive physical therapy after their hospital stay.[1] Physical therapy has consistently been shown to reduce pain, improve knee range of motion and strength, and improve satisfaction following total knee replacement surgery.[3] This blog discusses the best case scenario for a recovery timeline in people who had undergone total knee replacement surgery.

Some people may continue to experience pain and difficulty with daily activities well beyond what is considered normal. It has been found that 10-34% of people experience adverse pain outcomes between 3 months and 5 years following their surgery.[2] Additionally, 20% of people experience more knee pain and swelling than before surgery.[2] These people have the option to undergo revision surgery to correct any issues after the surgery. However, this further stresses the importance of sticking to a proper rehabilitation plan provided by your physical therapist in order to best promote proper knee recovery and decrease both short term and long term pain.

Conclusion

Typically, people see a gradual improvement in their pain symptoms during the first year after their knee replacement surgery. About 3 months after the surgery most people had less pain than they did before. After about a year, people state they have less pain and an overall improved quality of life.

Curovate can help you if you have had a knee replacement surgery to reduce pain in your everyday life and help get you back to the activities you love. Download our knee repalcement recovery app below.

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Reference

1. Bade, M. J., Kohrt, W. M., & Stevens-Lapsley, J. E. (2010). Outcomes before and after total knee arthroplasty compared to healthy adults. The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy, 40(9), 559–567. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2010.3317

2. Li, C., Ng Cheong Chung, K., Ali, O., Chung, N., & Li, C. (2020). Literature review of the causes of pain following total knee replacement surgery: prosthesis, inflammation and arthrofibrosis. EFORT Open Reviews, 5(9), 534–543. https://doi.org/10.1302/2058-5241.5.200031

3. Wainwright, A. V., Kennedy, D. M., & Stratford, P. W. (2015). The Group Experience: Remodelling Outpatient Physiotherapy after Knee Replacement Surgery. Physiotherapy Canada. Physiotherapie Canada, 67(4), 350–356. https://doi.org/10.3138/ptc.2014-44