Yes, you can walk after a knee replacement surgery. The main goal of the surgery is for you to walk using an artificial knee and get back to your normal life. In fact, it is highly recommended that you immediately use your artificial knee.
You need to know that walking again will require your dedication and careful following of the instructions given to you. Otherwise, you will find the whole process of rehabilitation frustrating and difficult to manage.
What exactly happens when you undergo a knee replacement surgery?
Before the surgery begins, you will be put under anesthesia. There are two types of anesthesia used in knee replacement surgeries: general and regional. When under general anesthesia, you will be put to sleep with a breathing apparatus all throughout the procedure. On the other hand, regional anesthesia only blocks sensations in a limited area of the body. A spinal anesthesia is a regional type of anesthesia where it only numbs half of your body and leaves you conscious during surgery.
An anesthesiologist or a registered nurse anesthetist will review your history and explains the whole process. They will also ask about your anesthesia options. The choice of anesthesia greatly depends on the type of surgery, your medical history as well as surgical history, and your overall health condition.
After the administration of anesthesia, the doctor will make a cut, which is normally 8-12 inches long to expose the knee. The incision will enable the surgeon to see where the problem is. The damaged parts are then removed and a shiny new metal or plastic replacement is put in. When these parts are fit together, you should be able to have perfectly moving parts just like your bones did. The artificial joint is attached to the thigh bone, the shin, and the kneecap with cement or other special materials. A knee replacement surgery will last for about two hours.
The Process of Walking Again
Recovery from a knee replacement surgery is not that simple. Your artificial knee may fit like a glove, but then again, the incision site is still there and you need to let it heal properly while you undergo therapy.
You will have to stay at the hospital for around 4-5 days before you can be discharged. During your hospital stay, you will be able to recover from the effects of anesthesia and from the knee replacement surgery itself. Moreover, after the surgery, you will be advised to get up and walk within 24 hours.
You will, at this point, be able to move your knee and stand. At first, you will only be able to walk with the help of assisted devices such as walkers, canes, and crutches, among other support mechanisms.
After a minimum of six weeks, you will be able to walk on your own without any assistance from a physical therapist. After a period of recovery, you can enjoy a lot of leg activities. However, even if you are able to return to your usual activities, it is strongly recommended that you avoid engaging in activities that place excessive stress on your artificial knee such as doing high-impact exercises like running, jogging, and jumping.
The Period of Physical Therapy
After the surgery is done, you will be sent to a rehabilitation facility or a therapist, who will teach you all the things that you need to do and what not to do. All people respond differently after the surgery. That is why the time frame of rehab may be different from one patient to another. Most of the time, the rehabilitation process takes a total of 6-7 weeks to complete.
For you to fully learn how to properly walk again, you will have to undergo physical therapy for at least one or two months to receive instructions and all the essential things to do with an artificial leg. Moreover, if you want to go home, the doctor will most likely refer you to a personal therapist, who will help you in your recovery process.
For about 6-7 weeks after the surgery, avoid pivoting, twisting, or bending your artificial knee inappropriately. Keep your leg straight to allow it to set in and get used to its spot. Avoid kneeling or squatting, as these positions will negatively affect your recovery.
The physical therapist will provide you with a list of dos and don’ts that you will be required to closely observe. Following such instructions will make sure that you properly heal and get a straight knee that will get you back to walking as you used to do. If you are not careful, you might even end up dislocating your new knee, which will extremely hurt.
Guidelines After a Knee Replacement Surgery
- Avoid the stairs. If you have to, just try to go down once in the morning and go back up once in the evening.
- Get a good chair with a good lumbar support to make the healing easier. Avoid the use of a recliner.
- Do not play with your children who don’t know your condition or play with your pets that could sit on your knee and dislocate it instantly.
- You wouldn’t want to trip or slide during your recovery. That is why the floor should have a good surface, which your soles can grip firmly.
- Before you decide on getting back to having sex, go swimming, or do exercises that involve lots of leg movements, consult your doctor first for medical advice.
The Bottom Line
Knee replacement surgeries often have successful outcomes. For most people with knee problems, undergoing the operation relieves their pain and discomfort.
Knee replacements can get loose or wear out over time. However, most artificial knee joints can last for 10-15 years. Some may extend even up to 20 years before they can be replaced again. In most cases, the result of a second knee replacement surgery is not as good as the first surgery. For this reason, it is important to talk with your doctor and ask about the estimated time frame of another knee replacement in the future.