As of today, it has been almost six weeks since I had surgery on my knee. Initially, I was VERY nervous for this surgery. It was my second surgery for the year (yep…I had my gallbladder out in January) and it was my leg being operated on. My means of getting around. I was terrified. Thankfully, my knee surgery went well and the recovery has gone pretty well too. These do’s and don’ts for knee surgery recovery are super important.
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Knee Surgery Do’s and Don’ts
One of the biggest things that will help you after any surgery, especially knee surgery, is to follow ALL of the post-operative directions. Failure to follow the directions can make your recovery longer, or…worse, it you can injure yourself further. While some of the directions seem silly, just follow them!
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DO take your physical therapy seriously
Like the directions your doctor gives you, the directions and exercises your physical therapist gives you are important too. I do physical therapy twice a week for two hours each day. On my days at home, I do the exercises they have told me to do. I can’t tell you how many people I see at PT that walk in with flip flops on (and they are on crutches because of a knee surgery) and then proceed to complain about everything they are told to do. Do you want to walk normally again?
DO ice and elevate
The best thing you can do for your knee surgery recovery is to ice and elevate regularly. We tried propping my knee up with pillows, but it became very annoying to constantly have to fuss with them to get them right. A week after surgery, I bought a blue wedge designed to elevate the leg higher than my heart. Even now, almost 6 weeks later, I am swelling or I have pain when I’ve done too much, simply elevating my knee and icing alleviates almost all of my pain.
DO follow a healthy diet
This is probably the last thing you want to hear, but prior to my knee surgery, I joined Weight Watchers. I figured that would be the easiest plan for me to follow. The last thing you want to do, when you are recovering, is to gain a bunch of weight. That added weight will not be good on your knee. Not to mention, I am a firm believer that if we fuel our body with healthy foods, those healthy foods will help us heal faster than sugars and unnecessary carbs.
DO find the best place to sleep
Your bed may not be the best place to sleep. Not only is it usually on the second floor of the house (unless you are lucky and your bedroom is on the main floor) and the stairs will most likely be tricky, but the potential to roll over and tweak your knee is high. I have slept on a recliner down in my family room for almost 6 weeks now. It is truly the most comfortable place for me. I tend to roll over to my side when sleeping and right now, that would not feel good on my inner knee.
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DON’T sit in the front seat in the beginning
In the very beginning, I could only sit in the back seat. My kids loved it because one of them always got shotgun! Every movement the car made was felt by my knee. So what I did was sit in the backseat with my back against the door and my leg propped up. Piece of advice, pay attention to the person driving. Sudden stops can’t always be avoided. Paying attention will hep you stabilize your knee so it’s not tweaked too much.
DON’T overdo things
While you need to work hard at PT, know your limits. If you are going to the store, use one of those motorized carts the stores offer. Yes, they can be frustrating and embarrassing, but overdoing it by walking (even with your crutches) will do nothing positive for you and it will prolong your recovery. For instance, yesterday I did not use my crutches at all the entire day while I was home. Today I tried to walk in Sam’s Club to do our shopping and 10 minutes or so into the trip, my husband had to go get me a cart. My physical therapist told me the minute I start walking with a limp, I need to grab the crutches.
DON’T get discouraged
The one thing no one tells you when you before surgery is the amount of emotions you will go through. I can’t tell you how many times I broke down and cried. The first time was the day after surgery and I could barely bend my knee at all when I was doing the heel slides exercises my surgeon told me to do. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was not that! The most recent time I broke down into tears was yesterday when I panicked about my second knee surgery in 2019 and all of the recovery involved with that one. Despite ALL of those emotions, don’t get discouraged. If there is one thing I know, while the recovery is slow, I am getting better and so will you. Just follow your directions!
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I hope this list of do’s and don’ts for knee surgery recovery is helpful. Remember, every single person’s recovery is different. Try not to focus on where you think you should be. Instead, focus on doing your best at each and every PT session and listen to your body. If something is causing you pain, stop and speak with your therapist. This way they can determine if you should continue on with that exercise or stop it. Good luck!