7 things I wish I knew before knee surgery

Knee surgery can have a major impact on your life. We share some insights and ideas from those who have been through it before.

No matter how prepared you feel going into the operating theatre, the days, weeks and months that follow knee surgery can be tough both mentally and physically. 

Knee surgery is a big deal.

With the benefit of hindsight, several customers shared their experience and what they wish they knew beforehand.

1. Recovery is slow

While it’s different for everyone, many people are surprised by how long it takes to recover from knee surgery. The time it takes to start doing simple tasks around the home, get back to work and importantly bending your new and improved knee may catch you by surprise. It’s important to have honest and frank conversations with your treating team (surgeon, GP and physio) beforehand to set some realistic expectations and goals post-surgery.   

2. The pain is intense

While a knee replacement is a common procedure, it’s still a major trauma to the knee region and recovery can unfortunately not only be slow, but also painful. Your treating team will give you advice on how to best manage the pain, but it’s important not to overdo it, keep your knee elevated, apply ice regularly and take pain medication as prescribed.

3. Pain medication can cause side effects 

Managing your pain levels after knee surgery is key to enable you to move around – which is important for recovery. In the early days, oral opioid pain medications are commonly used to help manage severe pain. However, some people experience side effects which can include; constipation, drowsiness, nausea, slowed breathing, confusion, a loss of balance and anxiety. Speak to your medical team immediately about any reaction you experience while taking pain relief so you can explore other options.
man in rehab

4. The mental impact is real

Moving around whenever we like is something most of us take for granted, so the effect of being somewhat immobilized for days or weeks on end is difficult to cope with. 
The psychological impact of a physical injury shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s not uncommon to feel isolated, moody or lonely after surgery, but it’s important to remember it won’t last forever. If negative feelings are overwhelming, you should speak to your GP.    

5. Rehab is intensive

While everyone’s rehabilitation program is different, it can be intense, particularly in the early days. A commitment to daily exercises as instructed by a physio is crucial for your recovery for at least two months after surgery. Depending on your age, health, weight and goals many people continue physiotherapy for 12 months after surgery

6. Support is needed

If you’re one of those people who despises having to ask for help – you may have to face the fact you’ll need some support until you’re literally back on your feet. Think about the basic everyday tasks you need to do and consider how you would manage if you were unable to bend your knee eg. Getting in and out of a chair or even going to the toilet? Try to put your pride aside and make sure you have help on hand. Try these handy hacks to prepare your home before you head off to hospital.

7. Exhaust other options

Again, knee surgery is a big deal, and should only be recommended if all other options have been exhausted. In some cases, weight loss and strengthening work can take strain off the knee. If you’re already committed to surgery then your specialist has recommended it for a reason. Other options including; physiotherapy, exercise, medications and the use of mobility aids are still good tips to reduce pain and help avoid future surgeries. They’re also a great way to prepare for surgery if you do end up needing it. The healthier you go in, the better set up you are for success. 
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