Many people wonder if they need a knee replacement, and secondly, are they ready for it? Yes, these are two separate questions. As a surgeon I will never tell one of my patients that they MUST have a knee replacement because that is a personal decision. However, I can ask a series of questions and make recommendations. So, if you think you might be ready for a knee replacement, ask yourself these questions.
• Do you have aching, throbbing knee pain that has bothered you on a daily basis for at least 2-3 months or longer?
• Does this pain keep you from doing activities you love or just basic activities of daily living, like walking around your house without pain?
• Have you already tried to manage your pain with anti-inflammatory medications (for example, Ibuprofen or Aleve), steroid injections into the knee itself or physical therapy without lasting relief?
If you find yourself answering yes to two or more of the above questions, then you may very well need a knee replacement. Then comes the second part of the question (“Are you ready for it?”), since a knee replacement is an elective surgery. This means that if your surgeon recommends a knee replacement for you, it should be done at a time that is convenient for you.
A total knee replacement is a large surgery with an extended recovery time. You will need to pick a time when you have the ability to dedicate at least 6 weeks to intensive recovery and rehabilitation right after surgery. It’s also important to pick a time when you can have a family member or friend available to help you at home after discharge for approximately 2 weeks. During that time, you will need someone to help with meals, to help you get to and from the bathroom, and to help as a cheerleader when you are doing your rehab exercises at home.
You will often start off with physical therapy 2 or 3 times a week so you can learn the exercises. These exercises will help you work on bending and straightening your knee after surgery. You will need to do those exercises on your own as well.
The first 6 weeks after surgery are the most difficult. By the end of this time, you are often ready to return to work, depending on just how physical your job is. It can take 6 months to 1 year to fully recover. This may seem like a long time, but in reality, it is a short time investment into a surgery that can give you excellent relief from your symptoms for 20+ years into the future.