Care after surgery: Recovering from a knee replacement

After your surgery, there are a variety of things you need to know for your safety, recovery and comfort. You will receive instructions on your nutrition, medicines, exercise program, activity level, discharge equipment, follow-up appointment, and signs and symptoms to watch for.

Within this section is what to expect during your recovery, what your incision should look like after total knee replacement, a list of commonly asked questions, a list of questions to ask at your follow-up appointment, and information about pain relief, pain medicines, anti-inflammatory medicines, constipation and nutrition.

Ask your health care team if you have any questions. They want your recovery to be as smooth as possible.

What to expect during your recovery

After surgery, it may take a while before you feel like your normal self. Recovery is different for each person. The following are a few things that you may have after surgery and some ways to manage these feelings.

  • You may have discomfort for a couple weeks to one year after your surgery. To help manage discomfort or pain after your surgery:
    • take your pain medicine as instructed by your surgeon
    • rest between activities as needed
    • lie down, raise (elevate) your surgical leg and put cold packs around your surgical knee at least three times a day; see the home exercise program┬ápage for more instructions.
  • You may have trouble sleeping. To sleep better after surgery:
    • try not to sleep or nap too much during the day
    • try to create a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
    • try not to drink too many liquids right before going to bed
  • Your energy level will be low for at least the first month after surgery. To help manage your energy level after surgery:
    • try to take your pain medicine at the same time each day
    • rest between activities
    • try to get up and move around each hour you are awake
  • You may not have much of an appetite.
    • Your desire for food will slowly return.
    • Be sure to drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated. Try to drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of liquids each day.
  • You may have constipation. This can be caused by taking pain medicine. Learn more about how to manage constipation after surgery.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Knee Replacement, fifth edition, ortho-ah-90140
First Published: 10/01/2000
Last Reviewed: 05/26/2017


Please read your discharge instructions for more information about incision care.

Ask your surgeon when it is OK to resume having routine dental appointments or any dental work done.

Did you know?
Germs (bacteria) that can cause infections in your teeth or gums can be released into your bloodstream during some dental procedures.
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