Post- Operative Knee Replacement Recovery Time


Knee replacement recovery time is one of the easier times to predict in the field of rehabilitation.

By definition total knee replacement is the surgical procedure where the severely damaged knee joint is replaced with artificial material.

This material consists of a metal and plastic. The procedure generally requires one and half to three hours and the recovery begins immediately. Patients are discharged from the hospital after a few days.

However, there are a few different circumstances and benchmarks which every patient must reach before they can be considered completely recovered. Here we will take a closer look at knee replacement recovery time.

The First Day

knee stretch postThe rehabilitation plan for knee replacement patients has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. In years past the patient was kept in the hospital long enough for the swelling to go down before they began working with a physical therapist. Now knee replacement recovery time has been drastically reduced by getting the patient to begin walking within 24 hours after the procedure. The patient will begin standing and walking using an assistive device (walker, crutches or cane) with the assistance of the therapist.

Surgeons and physical therapists discovered that the muscles surrounding the knee are usually very weak by the time the patient seeks knee replacement. Thus it is absolutely crucial to get the patient weight bearing as quickly as possible to help build new muscle around the knee. During this first day the therapist will go over transfer techniques. Some patients leave the operating room with a continuous passive motion machine (CPM). This device creates mobility in the knee and prevents the build-up of scar tissue and rigidity.

The Second Day

knee extAfter the limited walking exercises of the first day, the second day will focus upon reducing the swelling, increase mobility and light strengthening. This is the start of work with the physical therapist to reach the mandatory benchmarks. In order to ensure that the knee replacement recovery time is both minimized yet produces outstanding results, the regimen to reduce the swelling usually requires several sessions with ice packs/cyrocuff and use of an electrical stimulator.

When the swelling decreases the patient begins the most difficult time of their therapy. That is to attain full extension of the knee  as well as to a full ninety degree bend. The second part of the physical therapy to reduce the knee replacement recovery time involves strengthening the quadriceps muscle by having the patient climb a single stair, resting, and then performing the exercise again. The patient is instructed in performing quadriceps setting exercises to increase the tone of the atrophied muscle. These are extremely important and performed several times during the day.

The Third Day

SLRThe third day of the physical rehabilitation process is spent preparing the patient to pass the healing benchmark test.This typically involves climbing at least two steps without assistance, flexing the leg to ninety degrees, straighten the leg completely, and walk sixty feet with the assistance of a walker or a cane. This will show the physical therapist that the knee replacement recovery time has not suffered any setbacks. If the patient passes the test then they will be discharged to continue therapy on their own.


It is important for patients to continue in an outpatient physical therapy program for optimal knee replacement recovery and to prevent setbacks from this procedure. The average complete knee replacement recovery time is between 8-12 weeks.