Knee Replacement Recovery Success Tips

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Deciding to have knee replacement surgery is not an easy decision and many people wait until they can hardly walk or can’t walk at all.  Surgery can be a great experience and put you on the road to an active lifestyle again.  There are, however, several complications you want to avoid after surgery and here are some easy tips to make sure you have the best recovery possible.

-Make sure you keep your pain under control

There are many options available to you in the hospital for pain control.  If you have been on narcotics before surgery, you may need to talk to your doctor about alternative pain control options.  There are many medications available and also some non-pharmacologic measures you can use.  Ice is a great way to decrease swelling and pain.  Knee replacements tend to cause a lot of swelling and using ice right away can help minimize this.  Some hospitals have special cold compression wraps while others just use traditional ice packs.  Either option will help with pain and swelling.

 If you experience muscle spasms during surgery, ask your doctor or nurse for a muscle relaxant.  Knee replacement surgery can cause muscle spasms in the quadriceps muscle which is very painful.  A muscle relaxant can be taken along with your pain medicine. 

Some doctors will also offer the option of a nerve block.  This is a shot done by an anesthesiologist before surgery that will numb the nerves going to the knee.  These will generally work for around 48 hours after surgery.  The problem with nerve blocks is that they will wear off with little to no warning and you may have severe pain until the pain medication can take effect.  Nerve blocks can also weaken the quadriceps muscle and make physical therapy more challenging until it wears off.  Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits.

-Be sure to get out of bed and exercise as soon as possible

Motivation to move and get better is the key to a quick and easy recovery.  You will probably feel like rest is the best thing for you, but you need to get moving quickly.  Some hospitals have you out of bed the same day as surgery if you are medically able to get up.  Others wait until the next morning.  The best advice is to listen to your physical therapist and do everything they ask you to do.  Sit up out of bed with meals if you are able and make sure to walk to the bathroom instead of using a bed pan or urinal.  If you have someone who can stay with you in the hospital, they can be taught how to help you move and get up safely so you don’t have to wait for help. 

Many complications after surgery happen because people don’t get moving quickly and stay in bed too much.  You can get blood clots or pneumonia from not moving around.  When you are in the bed, pump your ankles up and down to circulate your blood.  You can also do coughing and deep breathing exercises to expand your lungs and keep pneumonia from occurring.

-Don’t forget about your bowels

It is very important to know when your last bowel movement was before surgery.  Make sure you let your nurse or doctor know what your routine is at home for having a bowel movement.  Anesthesia, bed rest, and pain medication can all contribute to constipation.  This can be a serious complication if not taken care of soon.  You should be able to have a bowel movement within three days of surgery.  You should start eating foods high in fiber such as broccoli, whole wheat, and apples to prevent constipation.  You should also be taking a stool softener if you are on pain medication.  If you have not had a bowel movement in three days, you need to ask for a suppository.  This will help you go the first time and make it easier for subsequent bowel movements.  Also, walking and getting out of bed frequently are also helpful ways to prevent constipation.

These are just a few tips from professionals that work in hospitals and have seen many patients with knee replacement surgery.  If you follow this advice, you should have an easy and rewarding hospital stay.

More about this author: Laurie Mclean RN

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