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What to Expect After Having Knee Replacement Surgery

Athena Perez

July 15, 2019

What to expect after full knee replacement surgerySo you decided to have knee replacement surgery!  I would say congratulations, but the other part of me wants to say “oh boy….”. It’s a tough decision and one that I hope you have not taken lightly. If there were two things I underestimated when I was considering this big surgery, it was the recovery time and understanding what to expect once I left the surgery table. Here are a few things you should know that might just help your process go smoothly.


The first week or two will be the toughest, and you will want to make sure you have the right support and someone that can be with you at all times. You are going to need help (most likely) with all of the basics; getting in and out of bed, going to the bathroom, showering, preparing meals, driving you to appointments, taking care of pets, shopping, housework, and all of the typical adulting activities. Don’t try and do it by yourself.


Make sure you have the right supplies. I found out the hard way and wasn’t prepared with everything I needed. Here is a list of the essentials!

  • 4 x 4 gauze pads
  • Medical tape (3M is the best)
  • Medical gloves
  • Miralax (first week)
  • Walker (in many cases, you will get this before you leave hospital depending on your insurance)
  • slides or tennis balls for walker
  • Shoehorn
  • Sock assist
  • Toilet assist (optional)
  • Leg assist (optional)
  • Ice Packs (3 sets ideally)
  • Notebook
  • Compression socks (knee-high)

You can purchase all of these things on Amazon. Click here to view all!

keep a medication log

You could use a notebook or anything really, but you will want to keep track of your medication schedule. Let’s face it, you’re going to be pretty dopey the first week or two. It’s easy to forget when you took your meds when you’re continually fading in and out of consciousness. The hours and days blend together, so every time you take a pill, write what you took and the time you took it. This way, you and your caregiver can stay on the same page.

Arctic Ice Machine

ice is your friend

You’re going to want ice in mass quantities and will want to have several sets of ice packs. They take a while to freeze so I would recommend at least three sets of twin packs. I wouldn’t recommend relying on your freezer to produce the amount of ice you’re going to go through so you might even look at an ice machine. Unlike unsecured ice packs that can frustratingly change position and fall off with any movement you make, the ice machine circulates cold water for about 3-4 hours, continuously supplying cold to the knee. I chose the Arctic Ice Machine, and it worked beautifully. The only downside to the machine is that it doesn’t have a disconnection from the power supply to the unit, so you have to unplug the whole thing to empty or fill. Other than this tiny annoyance, it could be a wise investment.

rest & recovery

The first week or two could potentially be quite painful. Your body will want to sleep a good majority of the time. I made the mistake of trying to jump back into work 6 days after surgery, and I wouldn’t advise. Try to take at least two weeks off from work if you have a sedentary job; up to 6 weeks if you are on your feet. Coming back to work too early meant trying to send emails and respond professionally all doped up. It took me three times longer to do everything, and just trying to stay awake was hard enough. Do yourself a favor and allow proper rest and recovery time.

physical therapy

PT is one of the areas I grossly underestimated as far as time commitment goes. Your doctors will want you on a CPM machine, or continuous passive motion (they will supply in most cases) for 3-5 hours a day. On top of that, you will have either in-home or out-patient physical therapy several hours a week. Additionally, your physical therapist will give you a list (that will change as you progress) that will have a list of movements you will be doing on your own 3-4 times a day that will take you up to 30 minutes to run through it all. This is another reason that taking adequate time off will be critical simply because of the physical therapy demands to get the leg straightening and bending properly. Investing in your physical therapy time will set you up for your biggest success. I can’t stress this enough.

Your leg is going to work as well as the time you are willing to spend on it. Getting back to normal means mastering the walker, then onto a cane and then walking independently. It means learning to lead with your surgery leg on stairs and being able to move better than presurgery. It will take time; not days…….. but weeks and months.

things that make life easier

Loss of being able to do every life things will be the hardest for some. Not only do these services make it convenient for someone that most certainly will have a hard time carrying bags of groceries after surgery, but I feel like I get time back on my weekends.  Here are a few services that make things easier:

Shipt: Now in over 260 cities and counting, Shipt is a grocery delivery service I use for CVS (medical supplies) and my local grocery stores (Kowalskis and Target).

Instacart: Also a grocery delivery service that delivers from other grocery stores like Cub (Minnesota based) Sams Club and Costco. I’m not sure about you, but I get my weekly groceries from several different stores.

Both of these couldn’t be more simple. You log in to your account and shop the aisles just like you would in-store. If its fresh foods, you select the weight, and you tell your shopper exactly what you need. If they don’t have something, they will text you and ask for an alternative. You know exactly when they are shopping your order and let you know when they’re on their way! I save hours on the weekends so the yearly membership has already paid for itself. Love them both!

I hope you or a loved one finds this info helpful. If you have questions or comments, hit that reply button below!

Love and luck!




  1. Melody Perez

    July 22nd, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    Love it

  2. Athena Perez

    July 22nd, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    Oh, the things we wish we would have known before hand eh? 🙂

  3. Mary

    July 23rd, 2019 at 11:18 am

    this is so useful. My mother is having her knee done next month. thanks for posting

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I’m Athena Perez, a Christ-loving dog mom and CrossFitter who has lost over 200 pounds on a long journey of self-discovery. I’m obsessed with sharing everything I’ve learned to help you too!  

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