Recovering From Knee Surgery - Slow And Steady Is The Key

You're scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in your knee. The orthopedic surgeon will do this procedure in their office or outpatient clinic. You'll leave shortly after the surgery to begin your recovery at home. It's then up to you to have a successful recovery. Here is how to begin preparing yourself for the next few weeks of recovery from the knee surgery.

The First Week at Home

The arthroscopic surgery is less invasive than traditional knee surgery, so fewer soft tissues are disrupted. The first few days at home will be focused on resting your knee to allow the tissues to heal. Your doctor will instruct you on how to monitor the bandages placed over the two small incisions on your knee for drainage and infection.

You'll also be given some exercises to do with your knee to help keep the muscles limber and increase circulation to reduce inflammation. Your doctor will tell you how much weight you can put on the knee while walking for these first few days. A week or so after your surgery, you'll have a follow-up appointment with your doctor. When they are satisfied with the healing of your knee, they will have you begin physical therapy.

Physical Therapy to Regain Range of Motion

The muscles and tendons in your knee will be tense from not being used. If you've done the exercises at home that your doctor gave you when you left the outpatient clinic, your muscles will be less stiff. The first step in physical therapy is to regain complete motion in your knee. This means slowly stretching the muscles out to their normal lengths.

The physical therapist will begin by doing passive range of motion exercises on you. They will move your knee for you through all of the directions to stretch out the muscles. The therapist will show you how you can move your knee around yourself at home between sessions.

This is when it's important to set a pace with your therapist. The right pace allows you to make progress but not overwork your knee. You need to stick to the pace throughout your recovery so you don't risk injuring your knee. If you push your knee beyond what it's ready to do, you can set back your recovery time.

After several days of passive exercises, the therapist will have you move your knee on its own throughout the directions of movement. Your range of motion will be measured at each session. When you have nearly normal range of motion, you'll begin the next step of your recovery.

Physical Therapy to Strengthen Your Knee

You'll now start exercises to strengthen the muscles in and around your knee. Strong muscles help you move your knee, but also protect it from injury. The physical therapist will have you work with machines in their clinic to build up muscle tissue. You'll have exercises to do at home, too. You may use a stationary bike at the clinic and ride your bicycle at home for exercise.

Again, you'll set the proper pace with the therapist. It can be easy to push yourself now as you begin to see real improvement. But you can still hurt yourself if you strain or twist your knee.

To make sure that you are having the best recovery possible from your knee surgery:

  • Set the pace with your physical therapist and stick to it.
  • Be diligent about doing the exercises you're given to do at home.
  • Monitor your own progress closely and look for incremental improvement.
  • Remember that your recovery is based on small steps over the course of several weeks.