5 ways to boost your recovery after knee survery

We’ve put together some tips to help speed up your recovery from knee surgery. 

As a physiotherapist, Dave Morarty spends a lot of time with people before and after knee operations. 
He shares five key things you can do to help you achieve a quick and quality recovery from knee surgery.

1. Find a good surgeon

A great recovery from knee surgery, all starts with good quality surgery.

says it’s important to find a surgeon you feel comfortable with, who can help prepare you mentally as well as physically for what lays ahead.
It’s also important your surgeon works with your physiotherapist.
“You’ve got to have huge confidence in the surgeon and the physio and ideally they will communicate with each other and you’re free to ask questions,” says Morarty.

2. Start prehab

Prehabilatation or prehab is exercise training which can be done with a physio before surgery to strengthen, improve motion and/or reduce inflammation. It can help to prepare the knee for surgery, and get you into a position where you can step into your rehab effectively. 

Before knee surgery, your entire knee might be inflamed and incredibly sore from not only your injury, but the collateral damage from day to day stresses.

Committing to a prehabilitation program may help reduce some of the swelling, and settle the area – creating what physiotherapists and surgeons refer to as a ‘happy knee’.

“So you have some treatment to settle that (inflammation) down and regain some strength and range of motion so when they surgeon goes to operate it’s a discrete amount of damage the surgeon has to fix, rather than a whole lot of inflammation that’s going to delay your recovery,” says Morarty.

“We have had cases where people have been able to cancel the surgery because their functional levels improved so much that the symptoms went away and their function returned.”

3. Commit to rehab

The surgery itself is only half of the work, rehab is a vital and sometimes lengthy part of your knee surgery recovery.
Morarty says rehab is generally broken into three phases; 
Settling down and healing phase
Strengthening and regaining motion phase
Return to sport or return to activities phase

“It’s about strength, regaining motion, regaining balance and having that recovery time to allow the injury to heal as well,” says Morarty.

“With some patients we find we need to push a bit harder, others we have to restrain and hold back, everyone is a bit different.”

4. Prepare mentally

Preparing mentally is just important as the physical preparation.
Morarty says a good physio will help you prepare psychologically for what your surgery and recovery is going to look like.
“A lot of people haven’t got a mental picture of what it’s going to be like. The surgeon’s appointment is often quick, [so] they know the basics of what’s going to happen in the procedure but they don’t know how the knee is going to look and what the early days of their mobility are going to be like.” He says. “Talking to your physio can prepare you for that.”

“We’re with the patient a lot, we might be seeing them initially 3 times a week, so we often have time to deal with their fears and answer a lot more questions.”

For example, Morarty says patients often need to be told they’ll start their rehab exercises before the pain settles completely. Pain relief and sometimes anti-inflammatories can play an important role at this stage.

“It’s better to exercise with adequate pain relief, then to be unable to exercise because of the pain,” says Morarty. 

5. Speed vs quality

For many people, the big question is “when will I get back to sport or other activities I enjoy?”. But Morarty says it’s important not to rush your recovery.

“People get very focused on the time they took to get better. What we really want overall is to get the best outcome in terms of quality, so getting back to the best potential you can, and we try to do that as soon as possible as well,” he says.

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