Recovery post a Total Knee replacement. The first 2 weeks

Once discharged from hospital, your recovery begins.

When you were discharged you were sent home with some pain medication. You probably were sent home with an exercise sheet from your physiotherapist too. This is where I believe in the saying “Exercise is Medicine”- as important as your take home medication, so too are your daily exercises. Some medication you will take 1x per day, others you may take 3x per day. So too is the same for your home exercise program.

Below is a video link to the exercises that were done in hospital. These you should do for the first 2 weeks until your follow up with the surgeon.

The follow up with the surgeon post op can be anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks post operation. In this time the key things are:

  • Get the swelling down
  • Get your knee bending- we look for a nice 90 degree bend at this first follow up.
  • We expect that you should be mobile within your home. Stay at home does not mean stay in bed.

A nice way to think of your recovery steps is a nemonic: POLICE

P- protect, this means using your crutches while we allow you to recovery post surgery

OL- optimally load- using your crutches for the allocated time

I- ice- helps with pain. It is something that you can do for yourself, and is often forgotten as a natural anti-inflammatory.

C- compression- this comes from the stockings, which help with both clot prevention and controlling swelling. If swelling decreased, then the scar heals better, and there is also less pain

E- elevation- this is also yo help with controlling the swelling.

Frequently asked questions:


  1. How long should I keep my stockings on for? 4 weeks
  2. Do I keep the stockings on for 4 weeks day and night? Yes
  3. Can I wash the stockings? Yes. Take them off hand wash them, hang out to dry (they dry quickly), and put back on again.
  4. Should I take the stocking off when I shower? Yes


  1. When can I drive? Only at least  4 weeks after the surgery (yes this is research based, and based on reaction and stopping times post a total hip and knee replacement), and when you are minimally dependent on pain killers, hardly using your crutches, you can get in and out of the car on your own. If you are still needing max assistance from crutches or still using alot of pain killers then you are not ready to drive.


  1. I have put on weight because of not exercising, when can I start again? Weight gain is 80% due to diet. This is a chance to look at your diet and improve your eating habits. When recuperating at home visitors and family think they should bring your cake, sweets and chocolates. The weight gain can be more from this rather than a lack of exercise. Stick with your physiotherapy program, and your physiotherapist and surgeon will advise when you can get back to regular exercise.
  2. Can I walk? When you go home, you should be active within the home. While on crutches you should just keep active. As you come off crutches (around 4-6 weeks post operation), the first goal is to get back to you normal activities. Once you cope with daily activities then you can look at adding extra activities such as walking.


  1. Often post surgery you are not that hungry, that is ok. It is also a time to have a look at your diet and see if there are changes you can make to overall health. This is an article on  diet and osteoarthritis


  1. Does this get better? Yes, the body has an amazing ability to heal. Keep with the program. We expect this progress to take 1 year. This does not mean that every day is painful, but it does mean that the first few weeks are early days in the big scheme of things. The first 2 weeks are generally the hardest. You find that if you skip your pain killers the knee is sore, but this does get better. After the first 2-4 weeks things are improving and you start to have good times in the days, and you can even get by with not taking as many pain killers. From about 6 weeks post op you start having good days, and as time goes by this will add up to good weeks. However if you do too much you knee will be sore again. Often around the 4 -6 week mark there is an increase in pain, this is often due to the fact that you are doing more things- coming off crutches, driving, going back to work etc. Just take it easy, pace yourself, and perhaps use one  crutch to allow the knee to relatively rest. Recovery is a journey not a destination.

If you are reading this article to see what to expect, you may find our article on preparing for surgery helpful.

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