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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

How Long Will I Need Pain Medication After Total Knee Replacement?

What Does Knee Replacement Surgery Recovery Look Like?

A typical total knee replacement will typically require one to three months of recovery with the use of a walker or a cane. Whereas, a partial knee replacement is less invasive comparatively. Patients usually walk without assistance within two weeks because the incision is much smaller and there is significantly less blood loss. While this may sound more appealing than a total knee replacement, only about 10% of patients are good candidates for a partial knee replacement procedure.

Postoperative symptoms

Total knee replacement surgery

swelling and pain after knee replacement surgery, Credits: pixabay

Having some pain, swelling, and bruising is a normal part of the recovery process after your knee surgery. There are many ways to manage postoperative symptoms and speed up your recovery.

After the initial pain and swelling, most people will notice a dramatic improvement in their knee problems within weeks of having total knee replacement surgery.

  1. General pain may occur for up to several weeks following a total knee replacement.

  2. Swelling typically lasts for 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, but may persist for as long as 3 to 6 months.

  3. Bruising may last for 1 to 2 weeks following surgery.

After the effect of surgery anesthesia wears off, your doctor can provide pain medication either orally or through an intravenous tube.

Where Will I Feel Knee Replacement Pain?

Total knee replacement surgery

knee pain after knee replacement surgery, Credits: pixabay

Knee pain is to be expected due to the surgical procedure itself, with swelling, bruising, and the placement of prosthesis.

It is also possible to feel pain in parts of the body other than your knee known as referred pain.

Your hips, lower back, groin area, and calves may initially pain due to the change in your stance and the way you walk. It is also common to feel sore due to a huge amount of time spent in bed during your recovery.

Knee Replacement Pain: The Week After Surgery

Total knee replacement surgery

a patient post total knee replacement surgery, Credits: pixabay

  1. You might have to stay in the hospital for several days following knee replacement surgery. This is often the most painful stage of the recovery process. Your doctor will prescribe medications to lower the pain.

  2. In addition to icing your knee, you may move your foot and ankle to increase blood flow and reduce the risk of swelling and blood clots. Your doctor may also use blood thinners, support hose, and compression boots to prevent further complications.

  3. Generally the day after surgery, a physical therapist will teach you exercises to help you recover your range of motion and continue to heal. You may even get up and take a few steps (with assistance). Patients who get up and put a safe amount of weight on their new knee often experience a quicker recovery.

  4. After leaving the hospital, most patients continue to take some form of pain medication for two to six weeks. Your doctor will determine the best method of pain relief for your specific needs.

Knee Replacement Pain: After Three Months

Total knee replacement surgery

a patient walking with support after after total knee replacement surgery, Credits: pexels

Swelling and bruising might continue for three months or more following knee replacement surgery. However, it varies from patient to patient and depends on the condition you were in before surgery. Many patients are back to their activities without the pain they had before surgery by this stage of recovery.

If you find that any movement or activity is still exceedingly painful after three months, you may be experiencing chronic pain. Chronic pain is defined as pain persisting for three months or longer. It’s a condition that affects roughly 20% of knee replacement surgery patients. It can develop and increase in intensity in the weeks and months following surgery and impact your overall quality of life.

Knee Replacement Pain: After Six Months

Total knee replacement surgery

pain after total knee replacement surgery, Credits: pexels

If you are still experiencing pain six months after surgery, you may be wondering how long it will be until you feel normal again.

In some cases, it may take up to a year for all of your swelling to completely go away. Your knee will continue to recover for years to come, as scar tissue forms and your muscles become stronger with continued physical therapy and light exercise. You should seek the help of your doctor.

Knee Replacement Pain: A Year and Beyond

Total knee replacement surgery

pain post knee replacement surgery, Credits: pixabay

  1. The goal of knee replacement surgery is to help you get back to your normal routine activities. Your doctor will motivate you to stay fit through activities like swimming, cycling, and even golf.

  2. On the contrary, there are certain activities that could negatively affect the prosthetic joint materials in place. Even normal use will begin to wear out the implants, but excessive weight or activity can cause your knee replacement to loosen and become painful. You may need to avoid running, jogging, high-impact exercises, and contact sports for the rest of your life following surgery.

  3. Studies have shown that more than 90% of total knee replacements are still functioning properly 15 years after surgery.

  4. While it’s possible for pain to persist for a year and beyond, it shouldn’t be debilitating. Scar tissue can continue to heal, as well as the muscles in your knee. But if you’re suffering from ongoing pain after a year, always consult your doctor.

How to Treat Knee Replacement Pain?

Managing Swelling

Total knee replacement surgery

pain treatment in total knee replacement, Credits: pixabay

  1. Swelling is a normal part of the healing process.

  2. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, many people experience moderate-to-severe swelling in the first few days or weeks after surgery, and mild-to-moderate swelling for 3 to 6 months after surgery.

  3. You can decrease your swelling by doing the postoperative exercises taught by your healthcare team. Elevating your leg on a pillow in bed for several hours and using compression stockings might help.

  4. Ice packs or cold compresses are effective for reducing swelling and inflammation in your knee joint and the surrounding tissue.

  5. Healthcare professionals may recommend using an ice pack 3 to 4 times a day for about 20 minutes each time. Talk to your physical therapist or doctor if you see no improvement or if you think extra icing might help. After several weeks, applying heat can also help.

  6. Talk to your doctor if you have new or severe swelling, as this can signal a blood clot.

Pain Medication

Total knee replacement surgery

pain medications after knee replacement surgery, Credits: pixabay

  1. Some pain is normal after knee surgery. This will reduce over time.

  2. Most people will take oral pain medication for up to several weeks. These include prescription-strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen. If severe pain persists, your doctor might prescribe stronger pain relievers such as tramadol (Ultram) or oxycodone.

  3. You may need over-the-counter (OTC) medication to help reduce temporary pain and inflammation later on. These medications may include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).

Home Treatments

Total knee replacement surgery

home treatment for pain relief, Credits: pexels

  1. You’ll most likely wear compression stockings while you’re in the hospital and a doctor may also recommend you wear them for at least two weeks afterward. These socks can help reduce the risk of developing a blood clot and may help reduce aching in the leg.

  2. Elevating the affected leg above the level of the heart periodically during the day may help with pain and swelling.

  3. Applying topical creams and patches to the knee can also help reduce pain and make it easier for you to sleep at night.

Physical Therapy And Excercises

Total knee replacement surgery

physiotherapy and exercise for pain relief, Credits: pixabay

  1. Your physiotherapist may use a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit to stimulate blood flow and reduce pain to your knee and areas around it. These devices deliver electrical currents to the skin and aim to reduce nerve pain.

  2. However, the American College of Rheumatology/Arthritis 2019 guidelines recommend against using TENS units in people with knee osteoarthritis.

  3. According to a 2014 study published in the journal Pain, TENS is not effective for everyone. People with high levels of anxiety or pain were less likely to benefit from TENS.

  4. Your physical therapist may also provide massages or show you how you can stimulate the muscles and tissue surrounding your knee.

  5. Follow the exercises recommended to strengthen your muscles, increase your range of motion, and increase blood flow around your knee. This promotes healing and helps drain fluid away from painful tissue.

  6. However, it’s important to avoid certain actions or positions during exercising that can cause damage. You may want to avoid squatting, jumping, twisting, or kneeling after surgery.

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