If you have undergone knee surgery within the past few weeks or months, then you are already well-acquainted with how slow the recovery process can be. The truth is, naturally, some people just bounce back quickly and recover in no time, while others take a lot longer. That’s just a fact of life. However, if you find that your knee surgery recovery time is taking longer than expected—or even taking longer than anticipated by your surgeon, then there might be something you are doing (or not doing) that is making your recovery longer than it should. Keep reading for 6 common reasons.
Reason # 1 – You are trying to walk or get around too much, too quickly
One of the biggest set-backs for knee surgery recovery is trying to walk or generally move around before your body is ready for that type of motion and weight bearing. Even if your physician has given you the go-ahead to put some weight on your knee, you shouldn’t start walking around the house all day, going up and down stairs, or engaging in too much walking and movement right off the bat. The key is to start with small achievements and work your way up; if you push your knees too much, too soon, then your recovery could be seriously set back. And don’t think that just because you are using an assistive walking device such as a walker or cane that you can excessively walk around your house or go out for errands: you still need to be resting your legs in order to improve your chances for recovery, and you still need to be conscious about how much you’re walking in order to keep it to a reasonable minimum. If you are not giving yourself at least 30 minutes of rest every couple of hours (and even more than that in the first weeks), then you are asking for trouble.
Reason # 2 – You are not icing your knee properly
It can be annoying or even uncomfortable to ice your knee after surgery for the amount of time that your physician has recommended. However, there is a reason why you are supposed to ice your knee frequently post-surgery: icing helps keep down the swelling, it reduces inflammation and provides additional pain relief to the area of your body where the surgery occurred. If you aren’t icing your knee properly, your knee will likely be more inflamed and thus prone to a slower recovery as a whole.
Reason # 3 – You aren’t elevating your leg high enough—or long enough
Icing, which we just covered, and elevation are crucial steps in the R.I.C.E methodology that is often recommended after an injury or surgery. Lack of elevation is another all-too-common reason which has caused many people recovering from surgery to find that it’s taking much longer than expected. Regular leg elevation is essential for knee surgery recovery, so if you aren’t elevating your leg for a set amount of time each day—or you happen to not be elevating your leg high enough—then you are not doing yourself any favors. In regards to height, you need to be elevating your leg at a height that is above your heart; make sure that you are elevating your leg at the heel, not the knee. As a general rule, you should elevate your legs about for about 30 minutes straight every 2 hours. And yes, this may seem like a hassle, but if you don’t elevate your legs enough, your knees will become inflamed and this will greatly slow down your recovery process.
Reason # 4 – You are babying your knee when it comes to bending
You don’t want to push your knee too much, but you also don’t want to baby it after the surgery either. Finding the right balance between babying and pushing is difficult, but it’s essential to understand what your limitations are and then “baby” your knee based on those limitations. One of the aspects of recovery that doesn’t need babying is bending your knee. You are likely hesitant and may be a little scared to bend your knee after knee surgery, but doing bending knee exercises is essential for building your knee’s range of movement and overall strength. Don’t push your knee or try to hyper-extend it the first time around, but small bends here and there and gradual bending exercises are much better for your recover than avoiding bending your knee for weeks. (Important Note – Always consult your physician, and hopefully post-surgery physical therapist, for the right exercises to do after your situation. Another thing, make sure you actually do what they recommend!)
Reason # 5 – You are focusing on easy exercises and avoiding hard exercises
While we’re on the topic of exercise (because it’s so important) – one of the most common reasons why people’s knee surgery recovery isn’t going fast enough is their reliance on easy exercises and by contrast, their avoidance of those harder post-op exercises. It’s only natural to feel timid or even a little afraid of the more difficult post-surgery exercises for your knee. They can be uncomfortable and tense, and you may be worried about hurting your knee after the surgery. But avoiding the prescribed harder exercises for your knee in favor of easy exercises that don’t challenge your knee to improve is a serious mistake. Your knee needs to gradually regain strength, range of movement and other essential functions after the surgery. You can only do this by practicing the regular hard exercises as explained by your physician and/or physical therapist.
Reason # 6 – You are not using the right type of walking assistive device
You need to be using some type of assistive walking device after your knee surgery. Why? Because it is very important that you keep your body’s full weight from pressuring your knee for a few weeks to a few months depending on the severity of your surgery. Ideally, you need to be using devices which allow you to completely (or nearly completely) keep the weight off your knees. In the first few weeks after your recovery, this means using a walker (if possible) or crutches to get around your home or anywhere you need to go. If you are using the wrong type of assistive walking device early on, a cane for example (which doesn’t allow you to keep your weight off completed), then you are not helping your knee surgery recovery time. While we’re on the topic of walking, you may also want to consider a post-op knee brace when you are ready to moving around.
Recovering from knee surgery is not always easy, but as you can see from the information we posted today, there are ways to make your recovery just a little bit faster. Good luck, and if you have some words of wisdom for our readers on your recovery journey, we’d love to hear them! Just leave a comment below.
BTW – If you know someone who is about to undergo knee surgery, please have them look at one of our other related posts: Tips on How To Prepare For Knee Surgery
Disclaimer – As we mentioned before, we are not doctors here at SimplyJnJ. The information on knee surgery recovery time was gathered from various sources and people who have undergone surgery and was posted for information purposes only.