No one wants to deal with a long recovery time from knee surgery. The lack of mobility and pain are bad enough, but there is also the uncertainty of not knowing how long recovery from knee surgery will take. So is there a way you can speed the process up?
While having an exact date for recovery is not possible, there are targeted ways you can shorten recovery time for knee surgery - whatever that recovery time may be.
The length of recovery time for knee surgery depends on which type of knee surgery you get, but you can speed up your wound healing to get back on your feet more quickly.
Read on to find out how long the recovery for each type of knee surgery is likely to be, what you can do to help your knee heal as quickly as possible, and what tools you should have in your knee surgery recovery kit.
The average recovery time for knee surgery
Different knee surgeries have different recovery times, but here is the average recovery time for the most common types of knee surgery.
Total knee replacement
This is a big surgery, and it takes a while to recover from. Most people will be hospitalized for 3-5 days after a total knee replacement surgery.
After release from the hospital, you will probably need to use a device to help you walk for the first few weeks. You'll also need to do physical therapy to regain strength and mobility.
The full recovery time for knee surgery of this type can take up to 6 months.
Arthroscopic knee surgery
Arthroscopic surgery is much less invasive than total knee replacement, so recovery from knee surgery of this type is faster. Most people are able to go home the same day as surgery. However, you will likely need to use crutches for a week or two, and start physical therapy afterwards.
People who have arthroscopic surgery can expect their recovery time for knee surgery to be around 4-6 weeks.
An osteotomy is a surgery that involves cutting and realigning the bone. This type of surgery is often done to correct problems with alignment, such as knock knees or bow legs.
The recovery time for an osteotomy will depend on how extensive the surgery was. For a less invasive surgery, you may be able to go home the same day. More extensive surgeries will require a hospital stay of 3-5 days.
You'll likely need crutches or a walker for 4-6 weeks after surgery. Physical therapy will also be a part of your recovery.
The recovery time for knee surgery of this type is around 3-4 months.
Of course, these average recovery times can be affected by a number of factors. Some activities or life choices have the power to speed up or slow down your healing.
So let’s discuss what you should avoid doing after knee surgery to ensure the fastest recovery.
Activities to avoid following knee surgery
There are certain activities you should avoid after knee surgery. Doing these things can slow down the time it will take your knee to heal. These include:
Smoking decreases blood flow to the surgical site and slows down recovery time for knee surgery. It also increases the risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a blood clot that can form in the leg and cause serious problems.
Drinking alcohol can also decrease blood flow to the surgical site and slow down recovery time for knee surgery. And, like smoking, it can increase your risk of DVT. Ideally, you shouldn’t drink any alcohol until you feel that your knee has recovered.
Lifting heavy objects
Lifting heavy objects may put unnecessary stress on your knee and delay your healing. It is best to avoid lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds for the first 6 weeks after surgery. After that, you can gradually raise the amount of weight you lift as your knee gets stronger.
Now that you have an idea of what can slow down your recovery time for knee surgery, what can you do to speed things up?
How to shorten your knee surgery recovery time
Here are a few tips that can significantly shorten the time your knee will take to heal.
Start walking as soon as you can after surgery, even if it's just a little bit at first. (Of course, make sure your doctor has cleared you to do so.)
Walking is one of the most useful things you can do to decrease recovery time for knee surgery. Walking helps to keep the joint mobile, prevents stiffness, and improves circulation, which is important for healing.
There is no need to walk very far. Start slowly and work your way up to longer walks - listening to your body to know when you need to stop.
Leave time for rest
While movement is crucial for knee recovery, rest is equally important. Your knee needs time to recover from surgery. Make sure to get plenty of rest and avoid overly strenuous activities. This will help expedite your recovery time for knee surgery.
One of the best ways to speed up healing early on is ice. Ice helps to reduce swelling in your knee and can also provide knee joint pain relief. It also slows down the body's inflammatory response, which can help to speed up healing.
Ice should be applied for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Wrap the ice in a towel or pillowcase before applying.
Applying heat to the knee can also help to speed up recovery time for knee surgery. Heat helps to increase blood flow within the area, which delivers important nutrients and oxygen that are necessary for healing. Heat also helps to reduce pain and stiffness.
Heat should be applied for 20-30 minutes at a time, several times a day. As with ice, you should use a thin barrier like a towel or pillowcase when applying heat.
Start physical therapy
Physical therapy is a vital part of recovery from knee surgery of all types. A physical therapist can help you regain strength and mobility. They will also help you to avoid potential complications, such as stiffening of the knee joint from scar tissue.
Most people will need to do physical therapy for 4-6 weeks to speed up their recovery time for knee surgery
Ease into exercise
Other exercise should also be implemented in your recovery process. Exercise helps to strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve your range of motion.
It's important to get your doctor’s approval for any new type of exercise, and to start slowly and build up gradually. Too much too soon can lead to set-backs in your recovery timeline.
Your physical therapist can design an exercise program that is specifically tailored for you and your needs. They will make sure you are doing the exercises correctly and progressing at a safe rate.
Some exercises your doctor or physical therapist may recommend to speed up your recovery time for knee surgery include:
Hamstring curls are a great exercise to help improve range of motion and flexibility in the knee.
Start by lying on your back with both legs straight. Loop a resistance band around your ankles and then curl your legs up towards your butt, keeping your knees bent. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Straight leg raises
Straight leg raises can help strengthen the quadriceps muscles. These muscles are responsible for straightening your knee.
To do this exercise, lie on your back with both legs straight. Loop a resistance band around your ankles and then raise one leg up towards the ceiling, keeping your knee straight. Return to the starting position and then repeat with the other leg.
Heel slides are a wonderful exercise to help improve range of motion in the knee.
To do this exercise, lie on your back with both legs straight. Slowly slide one heel towards your butt, bending your knee as you do so. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Do this each day to shorten your recovery time for knee surgery.
Quadriceps sets are another great exercise to help improve quadriceps strength.
To do this exercise, sit in a chair with your knees bent to 90 degrees. Tighten your quadriceps muscles and hold for 5 seconds. Relax and repeat.
Wall sits also help to improve quadriceps strength.
To do this exercise, stand with your back against a wall. Slide down the wall until your knees are bent to 90 degrees. Hold for 30 seconds and then stand back up. Repeat.
Following these exercises will help you to speed up your recovery after knee surgery. Be sure to listen to your body and only do what you are comfortable with. If you experience pain, stop the exercise and consult with your doctor.
Watch for signs of wound healing
There are several signs of a healing wound that you should keep your eye out for. If you aren’t following the usual wound healing timeline, you need to contact your surgeon as soon as possible to avoid recovery-prolonging complications from setting in.
So, what healing signs should you be looking out for, and how long does it take for surgery incisions to heal?
After the first 3-5 days, your wound should no longer be inflamed and swelling. If you notice pus and leakage beyond this point, you should check in with your doctor. The bleeding should also have stopped well before this point - so check in on that too if needed.
Once inflammation stops, your wound should slowly start to fill in with new collagen fibers. This may make the incision area seem thicker and bumpier than regular skin, but it is a normal part of the healing process.
Over the course of a few weeks, the edges of the wound will start to contract and heal over, and you will finally end up with a smooth scar about a month after your surgery. Understanding this healing timeline can help you ensure you are on the right path to proper wound healing.
Eat a wound healing diet
Certain foods are particularly useful as part of a wound healing diet. These include foods that are high in protein, zinc, copper, and other vitamins for wound healing after surgery - such as vitamin C and A. You can get these nutrients from food or supplements.
Sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, strawberries, and broccoli.
Vitamin A is most abundant in liver, meat, fish, and dairy.
Oysters are packed full of zinc, but you can also find zinc in red meat and poultry.
If you want to increase your intake of copper, try oysters, shiitake mushrooms, sweet potato, or liver.
Eating a well-balanced diet that includes these types of foods will help to ensure proper wound healing.
Start collagen supplementation
Collagen is a protein that is incredibly beneficial for recovery time for knee surgery. It is found in the connective tissues of the body, such as skin, tendons, and ligaments.
Collagen protein is what your body uses to knit together wounds, which is why many people take supplemental collagen for wound healing.
Using collagen for joints can be very effective, as it helps heal not only skin and muscle tissue, but cartilage and ligaments too.
When supplementing with collagen after surgery, make sure to look for hydrolyzed collagen or medical-grade collagen to ensure you are getting the most out of your supplement.
Speed up your recovery time for knee surgery
Knee surgery recovery time can vary depending on the type of surgery you have. However, there are several things you can do to speed up recovery time for knee surgery. These include walking, exercise, physical therapy, and getting enough rest.
You can also put together a knee surgery recovery kit with ice, heat packs, vitamins, and supplements. This knee surgery recovery kit should include vitamin C, zinc, vitamin A, and a protein supplement if you aren’t getting enough of these things in your diet.
One of the most important things to include in your knee surgery recovery kit is a high-quality collagen supplement.
A medical-grade collagen supplement like ProT Gold can help improve the strength and flexibility of your knee joint while boosting your body’s natural healing process.
If you are looking for the easiest way to shorten your recovery time for knee surgery, taking a daily collagen supplement can be extremely effective.