Ortho Hips and Knees- Part 7

The recovery period

In our previous blogs, we’ve talked about the alternatives to hip and knee replacement surgery, and what to expect if you’ve chosen total joint replacement.  In this, our final blog on the subject, we’ll talk about the recovery period. As with the previous columns, our information comes from the American Association of Hip and Knee surgeons; this time, the association’s Dr. Stephen J. Kelly, M.D., answers most frequently asked questions: 

Will I need to stay in the hospital?
On average, patients spend two nights in the hospital following surgery. Some patients may spend as little as one night, others may stay as long as three nights.

What is recovery like in the hospital?

Recovery starts right after surgery. You are helped out of bed on the day of or the day after surgery. A physical therapist will help you to walk, and most patients will have one or two sessions of physical therapy per day. The goal of therapy is to assist with strengthening of the muscles and walking. Therapy will also make sure that you are safe when you go home. That’s important when doing things like dressing, using the bathroom, getting up from a chair, and climbing stairs.

Will I be able to walk after surgery?
Most patients use a walker or crutches after surgery but often will be able to progress rapidly to using a cane. Walking soon after surgery helps you get better. It also helps avoid things like bedsores, pneumonia, and blood clots.

Can I go directly home from the hospital?
Many patients are able to leave the hospital and go directly home after surgery. It is important to identify a family member or friend who will be able to help with common household tasks such as preparing meals and doing dishes. Some patients will require a stay at a specialized care facility such as a nursing home or rehab hospital.

Will I be able climb stairs when I leave the hospital?
In general, patients are able to climb stairs after leaving the hospital; however, it is often initially slow and tiring and most patients are happiest if initially they are able to stay on one floor after returning home from surgery.

Will I need Physical Therapy after surgery?
All patients benefit from specific exercises after surgery. These will be directed by your surgeon and often will involve a physical therapist. Most patients need to do their exercises for a minimum of four to six weeks following surgery.

How much will my joint replacement weigh?
Most weigh between one and two pounds.

Are there any activities I will not be able to participate in after I recover from my joint replacement?
Most patients are advised to avoid running, jumping, or impact sports after surgery, so that your joint replacement may last longer.

Will I be in a lot of pain?

Fear of pain from surgery is one of the biggest reasons why people avoid having a hip or knee replacement. Pain control comes from using several medications that affect both the spinal cord and the brain.  With better pain control, you will have mild to moderate pain. There are also medications that help control nausea if it occurs.

When will I be back to normal?

Most people get better from hip or knee replacement in about six weeks. The time it takes to walk without a cane or drive after surgery is different for everyone. You will need physical therapy after going home. The skin incision or cut will heal in two to three weeks, but the process of healing can take up to a year. Once you are without pain, you will notice an improvement in your ability to walk.

We at Blue Sky Therapy are ready to assist you after knee replacement therapy!

Blue Sky Therapy has a continued commitment to patient-driven quality, excellence, integrity and innovation in everything that we do. That’s why we are scrupulous about planning the treatment of each and every client, and carefully documenting the outcome!


American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons. Developed by the AAHKS Patient Education Committee. Authors: Craig J. Della Valle, MD, Frank R. DiMaio, MD, Marc W. Hungerford, MD.