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Before going into a big surgery like knee replacement, it is always wise to be as informed as possible. I, of course, got a lot of the information from my surgeon and asked questions to a few people I knew who had the surgery before. But when I went online to feed my hunger for even more information, everything out there was from doctors basically saying the same things I already knew. That wasn’t going to do me any good before my big surgery day?!?!
Where were the stories from the people currently going through it? I had a hard time finding any. I told myself that once I had a few weeks under my belt, I was going to up as much helpful info as I could out on my blog so others could have information from a patient perspective. The real-life truths were one of the first things I wanted to write about which created this post, The 5 truths about knee replacement surgery from a patient’s perspective.
Having a Good Support System Helps
I really thought I would be fine after day 2 of being home. I figured I’m young, didn’t have any stairs, and my dog and kids would be gone until I was day 5. Well, it was a good thing my husband and close family knew better. They came and checked on me often. I probably wouldn’t have eaten or drunk much without their help. Those first few days are REALLY ROUGH. YOU WILL NEED HELP.
Make sure you have a sound support system set up before your surgery takes place. You’re going to need them, learn from my bullheadedness, okay? Especially those first few weeks, it is so incredibly important. This is the time for you to focus on yourself and your recovery. You are not weak by needing someone’s help. Take all of it that you can get. You can read more about how much I actually could do starting HERE. But really I was bedroom bound for the most part the first few days.
My husband helped when he wasn’t at work. My close family stopped by and made sure I was feed and watered. HA! Also, once my children came back, they too helped with chores, fetching me things, and really just being my company as the first couple weeks were really quite lonely.
Being Nervous is Natural
It’s okay to be nervous. This is an extensive surgery. Even though you are choosing to have the surgery, it is elective, so the doc’s say. For anyone actually dealing with the knee pain, it doesn’t feel very elective as every single time you step you’re in pure agony. But we are still making a choice to have this knee replacement done. That itself is very nerve-racking. How’s it going to feel? What is it going to be like afterward? How long is it going to take to recover? Am I just trading one pain for another type of pain? Is it going to go well? Am I gonna wake up and feel weird? And the most morbid… Could I die on the table? I get it. I had all those same feelings, and feeling nervous was an understatement really.
What helped the nerves? For me, it was to talk them out. I talked to all my family and friends about it. I reached out to family members who had the exact or similar surgeries. I spoke to my doctor about it. Asking him every single question I had. Need some ideas on questions to ask?Click HERE. He was great and really took his time with me to make sure all of the questions got answered and made sure I felt good about this decision overall. I took a week to spend extra time with my family, especially my kids. I even took some time to clean and organize, which always calms me. Weird right?
Do whatever you think is going to make you the most comfortable before you go in to have the surgery. Is it going to take all the nerves away? Probably not, It didn’t work 100% with me anyways, I still had plenty as I sat in Pre-Op, but at least the nerves were calmed enough to get me to the OR table, and I didn’t even sweat through my clothes on the drive-in.
Shorts Will Become Your New Favorite Wardrobe Item
Have some shorts ready to go. Now, I’m not sure when you’re going to have surgery. It might be in the dead of winter, but trust me on this shorts thing. I had surgery in the middle of summer, so you would think this shorts thing would have been easy for me. Nope, I ended up having to buy 4 pairs because the shorts I owned were not short enough! (Here is one of the pairs I liked) If you end up being anything like I was for the first 7 weeks, I did not want any piece of clothing touching my knee or the area around my knee. Fun fact, I have two little incisions about 4-5 inches above my knee along with the long incision right over my knee (You can see them here). I didn’t want anything touching those either, so hello short shorts. Short shorts were my best friend. I wore them all the time.
We were doing laundry every couple of days, so I had shorts to wear. I was not about to go pantsless… Now, depending on your doctor, you are going to wear compression stockings for the first couple of weeks. That, of course, touched the incision. But outside of that, I didn’t want anything else compressing against or touching my incision spots. It felt weird, it didn’t feel right, and it just added extra discomfort that I didn’t need in my life! Okay, I know that was probably the longest couple of paragraphs you ever read about shorts, but I being the fashionista I am, and with this point affecting you daily, I feel very strongly on this subject, haha.
Be Prepared for Post Surgery Insomnia
Post-surgery insomnia hit me hard. I still, at seven weeks out, am having one heck of a time sleeping at night. At this point, there are nights that I get 6 to 7 hours of sleep, but they are rare. More often I wake up every 3 hours or so because of feeling uncomfortable or in pain from a position my knee just doesn’t like yet.
Since the night after surgery though insomnia has kept me up from time to time and it sucks. The pain seemed to be the biggest reason for it. I tried watching TV on my iPad with my headphones in so I didn’t wake up my husband. I’ve tried moving to the couch thinking a different environment, and position for my knee would help. When I would actually fall asleep on my couch though I’d wake up with aches everywhere else so not the best solution. Pillow between my legs was the doctor’s advice, this would help at times. Some nights it wasn’t even just pain keeping me awake. My mind would race. I would feel left out of all the activities my family would be doing, and worry if everything would be getting done. The items I usually took care of. To help fight this, I would try writing in a journal and/or talking with my husband about how I felt and to check in on things.
What is my best advice for you if this happens after your knee replacement surgery? Do whatever you need to do. Have essential oils? Try lavender. Maybe the pillow or TV will work great for you. Or perhaps you’ll be like me, and combined them all to gimp you along for those first few weeks. Whatever it takes, find a way to get some sleep. Check out my post 5 Tips for Getting a Better Night Sleep After Knee Replacement Surgery for even more ideas.
The Pain is Real
It is going to hurt. I don’t care what anybody says. And there aren’t enough ice packs in the world! (Here is a post listing all my favorites) I hear from other knee replacement patients that had theirs done years ago say, oh it’s not that bad. Yeah, it’s pretty bad. Especially at first. The pain makes it hard to even concentrate on a TV show. Of course, I’m speaking from my experience, and everyone is different, but there is a reason they give you like 5 different types of pain relievers at first. If anyone calls you a wimp or says you don’t need them, have them look up total knee replacement surgery videos on the internet… they will change their minds. I’d bet on it. Obviously, you and your team of doctors and health care providers should be making the best choices for you when it comes to pain medication. Don’t trust me… I’m not a doctor. Ha!
I’m not here to get a big debate on the pain medication front. I’m just here to tell you it hurts a lot and it will for a long while. I was taking pain medication and using natural methods to try and help relieve my pain. Everybody’s pain tolerance is going to be a bit different. I was 34 at the time of my partial knee replacement. I thought I was going to breeze through the surgery. I figured my age would help not only in the recovery but also lessen the pain. HA! Boy, was I wrong!
The pain was horrible. I literally cried every day for four weeks. Just being real here. Am I glad I did it now? Yep. I kind of compare it to having a child. Having a child is fantastic, and after a couple of weeks, you forget about all that horrible 20 some hours of labor that you went through to get that beautiful little baby. Then you’d probably do it all over again to have another baby. Yeah, that’s kind of how it’s like with the knee surgery pain as well. I would probably have another knee done if I absolutely had to now that I’m seven weeks out, but if you would have asked me that question during the first four weeks? No way! Every night consisted of me screaming at my husband, Why on earth did I do this? I traded one pain for another kind of pain. It isn’t worth it. I am stupid. Why did I do this?
Now I sit here, still with a long way to go, but the worst pain is over. Grateful I had the knee replacement surgery done. I’m already able to walk half a mile without any knee pain, and that’s half a mile more than before the surgery! I play a little with my kids. Is it a little stiff, Yes. But trust me, all the pain so far has been worth it. All the stiffness and sore muscles in the future will be worth it. You’ll get through it, I promise. Along with the rest of your support system, know I’m here cheering you on as well!
Your Knee Replacement Surgery Truths?
Well, there you have it, my five truths about knee replacement surgery from the patient’s perspective. There are probably, even more, I could add to the list, but I didn’t want this to grow into a small book! Leave a comment below with a truth you would add to this list! Everyone has a different perspective to share. You might even see it in a future post. Take care until next time.
Want to read my journey from the beginning? Click here to read Surgery Day, Pre-OP
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Absolutely Spot On!! I am now 11 weeks post total Knee a replacement. I had read this before I went in for surgery and thought this was the most down to earth description that made me (a nurse mind you) more comfortable. And you are right! I cried at least twice a week for the first three weeks wondering what I was thinking doing this. 😬 now looking back I can say, yeah…I’ll get the other knee done but not anytime soon.
Thanks so much! I agree I would totally get another one but definitely no time soon! I hope you are doing well and recovering quickly!
Thank you. I am 5 1/2 weeks post op on a partial and I was thinking I was being a bit of a baby. I have felt a lot of what you mentioned. I am 49 and have had 6 children, so I know pain, but this was something else. I am just getting to the point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I’m so glad my article could help! Yes, you are starting to get to the light!! I hope each day brings you a little more pain relief just keep pushing along!! Trust me, you are definitely not a baby!!! Happy healing days ahead!!
Thank you for your refreshing honesty
I am 6 wks post op and I still have those feelings of regret , crying every night when I wake up every few hours with a stiff leg … but reading your story I feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel
Thanks for that
You are so welcome! I am so glad my story is helping other people. Keep moving, I promise it gets better! I haven’t been able to update in a bit but I still have times of stiffness if I’m not good and don’t move! But its nothing like it was in the beginning. It does get better!! Speedly recovery <3
You have no idea how much this helped me. My partial knee replacement surgery was a month ago today. I think I’m making acceptable progress, and even have moments of great optimism, followed by times when I feel discouraged and wonder if this was a big mistake. Your blog/journal gave me such hope. Thank you!!
It fills my heart to hear my story has helped you! One month! Your getting there and moving right along <3! It always helps me to think about how far I have come when I get discouraged and think about all the things I'll be able to do now that I couldn't do before. Keep pushing and keep up that optimism! You got this!
Thank You So much for this! Today is 2 weeks post-op! Tuesday I go get staples out! My incision is itching so I guess I’m ready! It’s 1:41am woke up from a sound sleep because of pain! 5 hours since last pain med! All you said is so true! This is my second, had my left knee done 4 years ago! I remember pain but not like this! Now I’m also 61 soon to be 62 and this was done by a different Doc but OUCH! The pain is REAL! The other note you mentioned that I love is the loneliness is real !!! I could go on also but this is your article! Lol Thank You for this so much! God Bless
Thanks so much for the kind words! Im glad my post helped! Today is Tuesday so happy getting your staples out day!! I hope it goes well and I know first hand how much relief that will bring! Sohea sorry this knee is giving you more trouble with pain. It does get better though just keep pushing through! Best wishes and lots of healing love headed your way!
I am ten months post surgery.
I am 65.
I do not know about medical facilities in your country.
But, here in India we have some of the best replacement surgeon s in the world.
Truth fully speaking, I suffered excruciating pain, just two hours , the morning after the surgery, which was controlled by the doctors.
By evening, I was going to the washroom, with a walker, without help, though the nurse was around.
Yes the first month at home, sleeping was uncomfortable.
But the pain was bearable. Not at all the kind you say that prevented you from watching TV !
By second month I was sleeping fine.
I used the Walker at home for only a week. There after, I was walking fine with a regular walking stick.
By second month, I went out with it.
I did physiotherapy every day, for three months.
I gave up walking stick, by the end of it.
Now, except for a slight start up pain, I am a normal person.
I just cannot jog, or run.
That s ok.
I do not need to. At my age.
Perhaps India is the place, all of you should have come.
That’s so great you are doing so well! Everyone definitely handles the surgery and pain differently. By month 10 I was doing much better as well. I hope you continue to keep doing well and stay healthy! Enjoy those new knees and take care!
Mind you I had a double knee replacement.
Bi lateral, as it is called.
That is, both knees at the same time.
Sorry I wouldn’t do it again! Four years ago I had TKR and it was like living a nightmare. The pain I had before is nothing compared to the stiffness I now live with. I feel this surgery is seen by patients and doctors alike as normal. Well as far as I am concerned it is no where near normal. Wouldn’t even consider doing it again. I hated every second and to this day although I don’t dwell on it I know without hestitation that I would not do a repeat performance.
Oh man! Im so sorry you had such a horrible experience!! Thank you for sharing it with us though!
Four years ago I had a TKR at age 60. What got me through the first painful weeks of recovery was reminding myself that recovery pain was temporary; the arthritic pain I had before surgery would have been permanent. That’s not to say it was easy. Before surgery my husband installed a tall toilet (great if you plan to age in place) and we bought a shower chair. I set up sleeping space in the den with a recliner, so my wonky sleep patterns wouldn’t disturb my sweet hubby, who had saved up his vacation time to care for me.
Recovery wasn’t in a straight trajectory, but it was definitely worth it. Two important things to note: the TKR isn’t original equipment, so it will not be exactly like the former healthy knee; also, as you become more active in recovery, don’t be surprised if you experience some discomfort on the opposite side, your gait changes as you favor the surgical side less.
Thanks for your insight! SO very true what you said about the recovery pain is temporary! I completely agree. I wish I would have set up my house a bit better before surgery instead of scrambling a bit but lesson learned if I have to do it again!
I wish I would have read this pre-surgery. I’m in week 7 of a total knee replacement and it’s been tough. I can’t sleep in a bed yet…my recliner has been my bed. Physical therapy has helped with range of motion, but I’m still not bending past 100 degrees by myself yet. There is still swelling but it’s better than it was. They tell me it’s a marathon not a sprint. I’m supposed to head ave the other one done, but I believe I’m going to put it off as long as I can. Hang in there…I’m hoping to walk at the park in the near future. Hopefully a year from now, we will both be back to normal…lol..whatever that means..lol.
Thanks for reading and Yes! It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint! Keep pushing to get that range of motion! It will help so so much. I’m just over a year now and it feels like a normal knee for the most part. You are definitely still in the thick of it but I promise it gets better! Happy healing and good luck!
I had total knee done on my left knee 10 weeks ago. All I can say is everyone’s experience is different. I did not experience a lot of pain. Lots of swelling and bruising but my ice machine was a big help. In fact I stopped taking anything but Tylenol two days after surgery. I was walking without aids except for a cane when outdoors, driving myself to PT at two weeks. I was sleeping in my bed and showering and dressing without help from the first day home.. what did help was three months of “pre-hab ” to build muscle strength prior to surgery and religiously doing my rehab at home. Can’t wait for my second knee surgery in a few weeks.
That is amazing!!! I’m so happy for you! Yes, it is very very true everyone’s experience is very different. I wish the ice machines were more available to everyone! I do agree the exercises make a big difference and I think continuing to do them helps keep the mobility even months after! Good luck with your next surgery!!
I had my surgery in 2008 and you are spot on. I had delayed for nearly ten months after my husband was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer, so I was pretty down, but still went ahead three months after his death.
The pain was off the scale and without my friends I would not have survived intact.
I had spinal surgery in2012 and it was far less painful.
Margaret aged 81
I’m sorry you had to go through all of that without your husband! That must have been even more difficult. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I’m surprised to hear that your spinal surgery was still less painful than your knee! WOW!
Oh man! I was the biggest wimp on Earth! The PT got irritated with me second day in the hospital and left the room. I was in the MOST pain I’d ever been in. At 61 and 25+ years of pain no one could convince me it was going to stop. But it does get better. Every day is different and some are better. I am healing extremely slowly and after four months I’m still in PT. I am so thankful I am able to do so, some people don’t. I have taken only 4 pain meds in three months other than Tylenol. That is the biggest success for me, I was taking up to 6 per day in the last couple of weeks before surgery, so my tolerance to pain was very low.
My brother, 66, had his TKR last January, and went home the same day. I thought he was lying to me! But I cannot stress enough. Everyone is different and my left knee is scheduled for the second week in June, as long as COVID doesn’t cancel it, and I can’t wait. Like you, I couldn’t find anything to prepare me for this. I thought I was going to visit my son for a few days two states away in week two. That didn’t happen! I promise, you really will be able to sleep again, the first night in the hospital I was awake all night. Just try not to be disappointed in your progress, progress is progress, a successful TKR is success, listen to your PT and keep on keeping on.
Your not a wimp! SO many people experience the same amount of pain as you! Your doing great if you’re really only taking Tylenol! Keep up the PT and keep it moving! It will keep getting better and better! Thanks so much for sharing your story! Good luck with your left knee, I hope it goes smoothly and not too painful!
I just had my second knee replacement. First was 2 years ago, excellent results. My age is 65. This second surgery was robot assist. I feel I have recovered a little quicker this time with less swelling and inflammation, but pain was pretty much the same, bad! I am 10 weeks out, back to work (desk job) , riding my bike and still doing my daily exercises. Still pain when I walk and back of knee aches but I am improving. I enjoyed your description of your experience, you nailed it!
Thank you so much for reading and sharing a bit of your story! I’m glad to hear your recovery is going well! The pain is tricky that is for such. Hopefully it’s getting better for you everyday!
I have had bone on bone in right knee for 11 years, refused KR, just had left knee X rays waiting result, pain is excruciating, and have a great deal of trouble limping around, get back ache, neck arm and shoulder pain, all related to knees, still at 78 can’t expect much else lol
After a decade of misery, I had bilateral knee replacements at the same time. I got my life back that day. I knew going into it that it wasn’t going to be a cake walk and I had a lot of hard work to do. The PT girls hauled me up a few hours after surgery and had me walk the hall using a walker. There was post op pain, of course, but it wasn’t the awful pain of the previous ten years. At home I took my pain Rx before therapy and before bed for a couple weeks, then needed mild meds only. Keep looking ahead, do your PT religiously and fully, and walk! There has not been a day of my retirement when I have not been grateful for this surgery.
Thank you so much for sharing your journey! I 100% agree with getting your life back after surgery!!! I thought one knee getting replaced was hard I cant imagine two! Glad your doing so well!
I am 5 months post op for my second knee replacement. Totally pain free, and have more strength in my legs than I had in many years.
I recommend replacements to everyone suffering from painful knees.
Thank you for sharing your success story! Congrats on your pain-free, new knee life!! I agree, I would recommend replacement as well! It’s a life changer!
Are you all young, I am well past sell by date at 78
I am so grateful to read all the comments about this surgery. Honestly makes me feel better! I am 50 years old and 4 weeks post OP from a total knee. I feel pretty much the same. Thought I had a good tolerance to pain and had my share of other surgeries. But this is next level pain! Just the part of bending to the point it makes my stomach hurt and having to push even further! Having a hard time getting past 90 degrees right now! Really hoping it is all worth it! Thanks
Keep at it and if the pain gets worse and worse talk to your surgeon! Some pain is expected but some pain can be handled in different ways or mean different things. ALl in all this pain and surgery is so so worth it though!!!
I read your post through tears of pain. I am 4 weeks post total knee replacement. Every time I settle down for bed, which is what I’m doing now, pain becomes very intense. I have also been suffering from insomnia. Thank you so much for this article. Your words gave me some peace and validation.
I’m so so sorry to hear this. I know first hand how terrible the pain and insomnia are. It does get better with time. I’m glad the article helped you find validation. Hope things start going better soon for you!
I am now nine weeks out from TKR. I never really had pain, just extremely uncomfortable swelling. The swelling has impacted my ability to exercise in a manner that would improve my strength and range of motion. My surgeon says this is pretty normal. And because my job requires a lot of standing and sitting, I won’t be returning until 16 weeks after the surgery.
I’m so glad you didn’t have much pain. The swelling was a big part of my experience as well. Ice and movement were really the only things that helped. I hope the rest of your recovery goes well and your back to normal in no time!
Hi Alicia Louise, thanks for this positive and friendly blog site. I am 8 days after TKR of left knee, here in southern Spain. Spanish hospitals even private ones are not good on follow up, I had no CPM, no ice, and was left with my bedpan for company far too often! My leg was in a full brace and I couldn’t move out of bed at all for 48 hours. No advice or PT offered before leaving. Discharged myself from hospital a day early and came home to hubby, good food and dogs. It is HARD. I am a pain wimp, and no athlete, and I am glad it’s done as I am not sure I would have gone ahead if I’d known about the pain.
8 days out, I am still on a walker around the apartment, I have good extension, and maybe 75 deg flexion. Stitches out next Monday and then – physio. Dreading the pain but I know I have to woman up to get results. I just imagine walking some beautiful hiking trails or out with the dogs, or travel to my beloved England to revisit its historic and wild places. THAT is what keeps me going! Thanks again to you and all the best to all on this journey!
Thanks for the comment and for reading! Oh my, that would be so hard without those items and follow-up. I’m sorry that happened. It does get better but let pain be your guide. Sometimes you can push too hard as well. The pain is rough but being able to do all those things you talked about are great goals! I hope you achieve them all. Happy healing!
Thank you for sharing. I am in week 4 of a tkr. . Have been off of pain meds for about 2 weeks. An occasional Aleve here and there and 1 pain med at nite. Not because it hurts, but it’s just uncomfortable. I have had in home therapy 3x per week and beginning next week, I go for out patient therapy. My surgery was out patient. Surgery at 730 and home by 1130 after stopping to fill script. My incision is no way as large as yours. I have sutures inside and my incision was cemented closed. This dr does the least invasive possible. I think my actual procedure was 35 minutes. My first week and a half were pretty tough. My knee is still swollen, which has been a problem for me as it has slowed down, in my opinion, the capability of bending to the fullest for exercises. I am surprised to hear how many have partials done and don’t exactly get the concept of it. I wanted it to be 1 and done. Recovery is the same for both ways. There isn’t anybody that I have spoken to that has said I wish I wouldn’t have done it. To the contrary, most say, why did I wait so long. Which is the category I fit in. I’ve never had any problem with having something touching my incision. In fact week 2 was wearing yoga pants., along with my sexy compression socks. My dr also gave me battery charged compression sleeves to wear as well. My overall experience was and continues to be amazing. But, I will be honest, I do live alone and sometimes I get a little lonely and sad. But, it makes me more determined. Good luck to anyone thinking about it. Just do it and get on with your life. ❤️
Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your story!! I agree to just do it!! Hope the rest of your knee journey is easy and painless!
This is the first time I read something close to my experience ! I’ve given birth to three children ….this was my barometer when comparing the pain of a complete knee replacement. Knee replacement is worse , because of the duration. I went to a after facility for one week as all my children live oversees, looking back I should have arranged for somebody to be with me .After the first week I cried constantly for 10 days…. I was not depressed or sad .Go figure!
At the end of 5 weeks I had my first day without pain and could sleep for 4 hours , heaven.
I am in my 6 Th week now and I’m diligent with my excercises , the one thing you cannot neglect,.
It was much more than I thought it would be.Youre not a sissy it real but it does get better .
Thanks so much for reading and sharing your story! I’m glad the pain is starting to let up for you and I hope you continue to get more sleep and less and less pain!! Good Luck on the rest of your journey.