You’ve made the decision to have knee replacement surgery, and the date has been set. You’re looking forward to getting your mobility back, resuming your usual activities and feeling less pain.
You may be wondering how to prepare for knee surgery and what you can do to make sure that your recovery goes as smoothly as possible. Know that there are steps you can take not only to prepare your body, but also your home.
Each person’s recovery is different, and yours may be faster than most. Still, you’re likely to have some difficulty getting around during the first several days, and possibly longer. Spending a little time to prepare now will pay off later when you get back home. You’ll lower your risk of injury, and you just might hasten the healing process.
Create a Checklist
This simple step can save you considerable stress. Your list doesn’t have to be in any particular order, though it might be helpful to create it based on the timeline for completing the items. (Some steps can be done several weeks ahead of time, whereas others need to be done shortly before your surgery.)
And, you don’t have to create the list all at once. In fact, you’ll probably think of things you want to add as you count down the days to your surgery.
You may be tempted to put this off, especially if your surgery date is several weeks, or months, away. But time goes by quickly, and that day will roll around before you know it. You could even start your list now, while you’re reading through this blog post.
It’ll feel good to check off the items on your list as you complete them, and you won’t have to worry that you’ve forgotten something.
Set Your Home Up for Success
Just as everyone’s recovery is different, so too are the “home prep” steps. The following are suggestions that are helpful for most, if not all, people who are preparing for knee replacement surgery.
- Evaluate your sleeping arrangements. Specifically, if your bedroom is upstairs, then you will want to set up a temporary bed downstairs. It may only be for a week or two — just until you can navigate the stairs with relative ease.
- Consider adding safety rails in the bathroom(s) you’ll be using. Falling in the bathroom could lead to a serious injury. Safety rails, also called grab bars, will make it easier to sit down and stand up when using the toilet.
- Move tripping hazards out of the way. This includes rugs and floor mats, loose electrical cords, furniture that protrudes into walking areas and any clutter that might block your path.
- Place items you’ll need within reach. This could be a two-phase step. First, consider items you normally store in upper cabinets or on top closet shelves that you might need during your recovery, such as blankets. Move those items to a lower space. Then, closer to your surgery date, set up a table near your bed and/or the chair you’ll use most often, and place items like tissues, lip balm, lotion, reading materials, remote controls, eyeglasses and, perhaps, medications on the table. (Just be sure that pets and children cannot access any drugs.)
Pre-Op Exercises to Strengthen Your Leg Muscles
Performing exercises before your surgery to strengthen the muscles around your knee, as well as other leg muscles, can help your body recover more quickly after surgery.
These are three common pre-op exercises that can give your recovery a head start. If you feel pain while doing any of these, stop.
- Straight leg raises: Lie on your back and bend your “good” knee so that the sole of your foot rests flat on the floor. Tighten the thigh on your other leg (the one with the injured knee) and keep the leg straight. While bending your ankle and pulling your toes toward you, raise your straight leg about 12 inches off of the floor. Hold it there for 2 to 5 seconds before slowly lowering it back to the floor and relax. Do up to three sets, with 5 to 20 repetitions per set.
- Seated knee extensions: Sit in a chair and raise the leg with your injured knee until the leg is straight. Hold it there for 5 seconds and then slowly lower it back to the floor. Do up to three sets, with 5 to 20 repetitions per set.
- Thigh squeezes: While lying on your back, tighten the muscles in the front of your thigh by pushing the back of your knee down toward the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and then let go.
Ask Family or Friends if They Can Help You
If you are having knee replacement surgery on your right knee, depending on the type of surgery you are having, you may not be able to drive for several weeks afterward. So, it’s a good idea to check with family and/or friends to see who can provide transportation to other appointments, including your follow-up visits, while you’re recovering.
While you’re asking, see who can pitch in to take care of errands, like trips to the grocery store and pharmacy. Are delivery services an option? Will you need help with tasks around your home? Do you have a dog that will need to be walked?
Even if you have everything covered, if you live alone you should still arrange for someone to stop by and check on you several times while you’re recovering. It’s always best to play it safe.
Post-Op: Exercises for a Faster Recovery
The recovery time for MAKO robotic-assisted total knee replacement surgery is much shorter than it is for traditional knee surgery. Based on our past patients’ experience, we’ve found that those who undergo MAKO surgery are typically up and moving around two to three weeks post-surgery. By comparison, traditional methods usually involve a recovery time of six to eight weeks.
You can do post-op exercises to help speed your recovery along. The following are three you can try. Start with fewer sets and repetitions, and gradually build as you grow stronger. If you feel pain while doing these, stop.
- Hamstring curls: You can do these while standing up or lying on your stomach. If you’re standing, stand near something you can use for support if you need it. If you’re lying on your stomach, fold your arms and place them under your head. Bend your knee on the leg with the new knee and slowly draw your heel up toward your buttocks. Then, slowly lower your foot back to the ground and relax.
- Knee and hip flexion: Lie on your back with your legs out straight on the floor. Make sure you keep your kneecaps facing straight up toward the ceiling as you do this exercise. Slide your foot on the leg with the new knee toward your buttock, bending both your knee and your hip joint. Slowly slide your foot back out, returning your leg to the starting position. It won’t hurt to do both legs, alternating as you do your sets.
- Standing hip adduction: Stand near something you can use for support if needed. Slowly swing the leg with the new knee out to the side as far as you can, while keeping your knee straight. Then, slowly bring the leg back to where it was when you started.