Top 5 Mistakes After Knee Replacement Surgery: Common Post-Surgery Errors and Joint Care

Top 5 Common Mistakes After Knee Replacement Surgery

Recovering from knee replacement surgery involves more than just healing; it’s about making the right choices to ensure a successful outcome. The top 5 mistakes after knee replacement can be easily avoided with proper guidance.

First among the common mistakes is neglecting physician-advised rehabilitation plans. Skipping physiotherapy sessions or not adhering to home exercises can significantly impede your recovery.

Additionally, many patients, after knee replacement, exhibit overconfidence in their newly acquired joint, leading to activities that might strain the knee replacements prematurely.

As an orthopedic physical therapist with over forty years of experience, I have spent the last decade seeing patients in their homes for about three weeks after being discharged following total knee replacement surgery.

The Type A personality trait of overdoing or advancing their total knee replacement rehabilitation program faster than I am recommending for them is the biggest mistake I see these patients make.

Conversely, some post-surgical total knee replacement recipients succumb to fear of the rehabilitation protocol, limiting movement excessively and risking joint stiffness.

My fearful patients are usually easily cajoled into increasing their participation to the level of my rehabilitation protocol for them. They are almost always impressed at what they can do without increased pain. In fact, I expect, and most experience, a pain reduction of about one point from where they were just before performing the exercises and walking I do with them at my visit. And then, at the end of the visit, we apply cold therapy to maintain that pain reduction.
Read my article: Ice After Total Knee Replacement: A PT’s Complete Guide.

Be wary of neglecting pain management too, as it’s vital for your comfort and progress.
Read my article: A PT’s Total Knee Pain Expectations: (Day 1 through Day 30)

Remember, it’s the commitment to diligent care after knee replacement that greatly diminishes the likelihood of committing these 5 mistakes and enhances your surgery’s success.

Understanding Common Post-Surgery Mistakes in Joint Care

After knee replacement surgery, it’s crucial for patients to avoid certain common mistakes to ensure a smooth recovery and optimal joint health. Despite the frequency of knee replacement surgeries, patients often underestimate the importance of adhering to their physical therapist’s advice post-surgery.

Skipping rehabilitation exercises, neglecting pain management, and rushing the return to normal activities are mistakes that can hinder the knee’s healing process. Another possible misstep includes ignoring the surgeon’s weight-bearing instructions.

As an orthopedic physical therapist treating total knee replacement post-surgically for the past forty years, at the beginning of my career, weight bearing was a restriction after the surgical implant, but over the past couple of decades, my referring surgeons have encouraged weight bearing on the new prosthesis as quickly as possible.

My patients initially use the walker because of balance issues and to decrease the risk of falling.

Moreover, failure to practice precautions against infection may compromise patient well-being after surgery.

Recognizing these mistakes and consistently applying proper joint care protocols will significantly benefit those recovering from replacement surgery, securing the longevity of their knee joints.

Maintenance scaled

Mistake #1 – Not Having a Physical Therapy Plan: A Critical Component After Knee Replacement

After knee replacement surgery, it’s essential to understand that the road to full recovery often involves a tailored physical therapy strategy. Failing to establish a comprehensive physical therapy plan can significantly undermine the success of your knee replacement.

As an orthopedic physical therapist with more than forty years of experience, it has been my experience that most total knee replacement surgeons do not have a specific walking and exercise rehabilitation protocol.
Most rely on the physical therapist to formulate a patient-specific rehabilitation program, although some have very specific programs that are recommended for all their post-surgery patients.

Over the years, I have developed great basic total knee rehabilitation protocols for the period from day one after surgery through day twenty-one, at which point the patient is ready for more aggressive physical therapy in an outpatient clinic and has been discharged from the surgeon’s care.

I have also developed several optional exercises to be added to the patient-specific rehab program if an additional or replacement exercise is needed to achieve the goals set at my initial patient evaluation.

While physical therapy sessions are important, most of the rehabilitation process relies on the patient’s commitment to doing the recommended exercises and walking recommendations on their own every day, not just on the days the physical therapist is with the patient.

The role of the physical therapist is to develop the rehab protocols with follow-up visits to assess progress, progress the protocols, and correct any mistakes.

Engaging in regular physical therapy sessions helps ensure your knee’s mobility and strength are restored. Without this critical component of post-surgery care, you risk not only a longer recovery period but also a potential decrease in the functional capabilities of your new joint.

Dedicated physical therapy after knee replacement is a cornerstone of healing and must not be overlooked. By committing to a regimen of physical exercises and therapies, your knee’s longevity and performance post-knee replacement can be maximized, affirming the importance of this key element in your joint care procedure.

Mistake #2 – Neglecting Exercise and Movement Prescriptions

One fundamental error after knee replacement surgery is neglecting the prescribed exercise and movement routines crucial for recovery. Many patients overlook the importance of these exercises post-surgery, which can lead to joint stiffness and impede the knee’s healing process.

After your knee replacement, it’s vital to adhere to the exercise regimen provided by your healthcare professional. These exercises aren’t just busywork; they are designed to improve flexibility, strength, and range of motion in your new joint. By diligently following your exercise prescriptions after surgery, you ensure that your knee replacement serves you well in the long term.

Remember, the movement prescribed after knee replacement surgery is essential in avoiding complications and maximizing the replacement’s effectiveness.

Failing to Follow Physical Therapy Advice After Surgery

After knee replacement surgery, one critical mistake is not following the prescribed physical therapy regimen. Physical therapy after surgery is essential for regaining the strength and function of your knee. Patients who neglect the advice of their physical therapists often experience delayed healing or insufficient recovery post-surgery.

Sticking to your physical therapy schedule and embracing the exercises recommended are pivotal components of your joint care. Remember, each phase of physical therapy is designed to maximize your knee’s potential after replacement surgery. By adhering to professional guidance, you can avoid setbacks and navigate a smoother path to recovery after knee replacement.

Avoiding Sedentary Recovery to Prevent Knee Joint Stiffness

After knee replacement surgery, it’s vital to avoid a sedentary recovery to prevent knee joint stiffness. A common misconception is that rest alone after knee replacement is beneficial; however, it can lead to increased stiffness and decreased joint function.

Active recovery is key, and it’s important to embrace movement as part of your recovery after knee replacement. Neglecting exercise can hinder your progress, but with a solid physical therapy plan, your knee joint can regain its range of motion more efficiently.

The goal is to incorporate gentle activities that reinforce the work done during knee replacement surgery, helping to strengthen the joint and improve your overall recovery. Ignoring this advice could slow down your knee replacement recovery and compromise the longevity of the joint.

Mistake #3 – Overlooking Effective Pain Management Techniques After Knee Replacement

After knee replacement surgery, acknowledging the necessity of pain management techniques is crucial for a successful recovery. It’s common to experience pain following surgery, but many individuals make the mistake of not utilizing effective strategies to address it.

Overlooking the role of pain management after knee replacement can hinder rehabilitation and delay healing. Employing a variety of techniques, from medication to ice and elevation, is recommended to control pain levels after surgery.

All of my total knee replacement patients are encouraged to use cold therapy A LOT!
Read my article: Ice After Total Knee Replacement: A PT’s Complete Guide.

My favorite form of applying cold therapy is first the Ossur Cold Rush Therapy Machine, followed by the second less expensive option, the Core Gel Cold Pack.
(amazon links)

TKR Ice after TKR Featured Image

It is essential to discuss with your healthcare provider how to manage pain effectively as part of your post-surgery care plan. Remember, knee pain after surgery is manageable, and with the right techniques, you can maintain comfort and facilitate a smoother knee replacement recovery journey.

Importance of Exercise, Walking, and Cold Therapy to Control Pain and Swelling

Understanding the importance of exercise post-knee replacement is crucial. Walking, as a form of exercise, enhances circulation to the knee, assists in maintaining range of motion, and supports overall joint health. It’s imperative not to underestimate the benefits of cold therapy in managing both pain and swelling after surgery.

When exercise, walking, and cold therapy are integrated into your recovery plan, they work together to control pain, reduce swelling, and facilitate a successful knee replacement rehabilitation.

Neglecting these components can lead to increased discomfort and a potential setback in your recovery process. Remember, your knee’s ability to heal and regain strength greatly depends on following through with these advised post-surgery exercises and treatments to control swelling and manage knee pain effectively.

Mistake #4 – Doing More Than the Physical Therapy Plan

After knee replacement surgery, it’s crucial to stick to your physical therapy plan. A major mistake some patients make is doing more than their prescribed therapy. Your knee needs time to heal, and overzealous activity can stress the joint, delaying recovery. Always communicate with your physical therapist about your exercises and follow their advice closely to ensure that your knee replacement leads to a successful outcome.

Remember, the goal of physical therapy is to regain strength and mobility without causing harm. Overdoing physical activities beyond your therapy regimen might feel ambitious, but it can set back your progress, and putting your knee under unnecessary strain can have detrimental effects on your replacement surgery’s success. So, respect your knee’s limits and trust in your physical therapy plan as you work towards regaining your mobility.

Type “A” Personality: The Risk of a Flare Up From to Much Activity

People with a Type “A” personality often face a greater risk of experiencing a flare-up after knee replacement surgery due to their inclination for much activity. After knee replacement surgeries, the knee requires time to heal.

Yet, those with a high drive may push past the recommended activity levels. The risk isn’t trivial; excessive movement following knee replacement can lead to complications, delaying recovery. It’s crucial to balance rehabilitation with appropriate rest, pacing yourself to avoid the pitfalls of too much activity. Despite the urge to quickly return to normalcy, respecting your replacement knee’s healing process is paramount.

Following a structured physical therapy plan is essential in preventing a flare-up, ultimately securing a successful long-term outcome for your knee replacement surgery.

Mistake #5 – Resuming Work Too Quickly After Knee Surgery

One major mistake after knee replacement surgery is resuming work too quickly. The eagerness to return to normalcy post-surgery can be a setback for your knee’s recovery. Patients often underestimate the time required for a knee replacement to heal.

Adequate healing after knee surgery is paramount before tackling work demands. Those who jump back into work may experience a reversal in their progress or worsen their knee’s condition. It’s essential to allow your knee to adapt and regain strength gradually; this means not rushing back to work right after knee replacement.

Following your physical therapist’s advice on the optimal timeline for returning to work is key to a successful knee replacement surgery recovery. Heed this advice and prioritize your knee’s health to avoid complications.

The Risks of Returning to Normalcy Prematurely Following Knee Replacement

After knee replacement surgery, the impulse to swiftly resume your regular activities can be strong, but the risks of returning to normalcy prematurely can set back your recovery. It’s crucial to recognize that knee replacement is a major procedure, and your body’s need for adequate time to heal shouldn’t be underestimated.

Following your surgeon’s and physical therapist’s guidance after knee replacement is essential for a healthy joint recovery. Hastily engaging in tasks that stress the knee too soon after replacement surgery heightens the risk of complications. Understand that every action, from the way you walk to the exercises you do, impacts your new knee. Thus, adhering to your recovery plan after knee replacement surgery without rushing is paramount for your long-term replacement joint health.

Navigating Life After Knee Surgery

Navigating life after knee surgery, particularly after knee replacement, can be both challenging and rewarding. As you embark on the journey post-surgery, it’s essential to avoid common missteps that can hinder your recovery. After knee replacement surgery, having a solid physical therapy plan is non-negotiable; it’s a critical component of your rehabilitation.

Moreover, following the exercise and movement prescriptions tailored for your new knee is pivotal. When life after knee replacement feels stagnant, remember that a sedentary recovery may lead to knee joint stiffness, an outcome we’re keen to avoid.

Post-surgery, effective pain management techniques also play a significant role in controlling pain and swelling, vital for a successful knee replacement outcome. Navigating these aspects carefully is fundamental in achieving a seamless transition into your everyday life after knee surgery.

The Importance of Managing Expectations After Knee Replacement

Understanding the importance of managing expectations after knee replacement surgery is crucial for every patient. The journey to recovery is not instantaneous and requires patience. When a patient’s knee has undergone replacement, being informed of what’s feasible post-surgery helps in setting realistic goals.
Read my article: A PT’s Total Knee Pain Expectations: (Day 1 through Day 30)

 Maintaining a positive yet realistic outlook is essential, as the knee gradually regains strength and mobility. Encountering challenges after surgery is part of the process, but knowing that these are typically surmountable can alleviate stress. By accepting the time it takes to heal and the effort involved after knee replacement, patients can adjust their expectations, avoid disillusionment, and focus on the prescribed physical therapy plan for better outcomes. Therefore, managing expectations is a key aspect of successful knee joint care.

Read my other articles about Total Knee Replacement

Q: What are the top mistakes to avoid after knee replacement surgery?
A: The top mistakes include neglecting physician-advised rehabilitation plans, overconfidence or excessive strain on the joint, excessive limitation of movement leading to stiffness, neglecting pain management, improper lifestyle modifications, especially ignoring dietary and weight management advice, and failing to follow physical therapy regimens.

Q: Why is it important to follow the exercise prescriptions provided by my healthcare professional after knee replacement surgery?
A: Following prescribed exercises post-surgery is important because they improve the flexibility, strength, and range of motion of your new joint. Adhering to this regimen ensures that your knee replacement serves you well in the long term and helps avoid complications.

Q: How does physical therapy impact my recovery after knee replacement surgery?
A: Physical therapy is crucial for regaining the strength and function of your knee. Adherence to your physical therapy schedule and embracing the recommended exercises ensure that each phase of recovery maximizes your knee’s potential, facilitating a smoother and more efficient healing process.

Q: Can I become too active too soon after knee replacement surgery?
A: Yes, excessive movement can lead to complications and delay your recovery. It’s important to follow your physical therapist’s guidance and not exceed activity levels. A structured physical therapy plan balanced with appropriate rest is essential to prevent flare-ups and ensure a successful outcome.

Q: What should I consider when thinking about returning to work after knee replacement surgery?
A: It’s essential to not rush back to work and to allow your knee adequate time to heal and regain strength. Follow your physical therapist’s advice on the ideal timeline for returning to work to avoid any reversal in progress or worsening of your knee’s condition.

Dr. Robert Donaldson

Dr. Donaldson is dually licensed; physical therapy in 1975 and doctor of chiropractic in 1995. He held credentials of Orthopedic Clinical Specialist in physical therapy for 20 years, QME in California, and taught at USC. He owns and operates an orthopedic physical therapy practice. See "About Me" page.

Recent Posts