When you have had a knee replacement, you have not only experienced major surgery, you have completely redone an important part of your physical make up, replacing what is natural with plastic and metal. You should expect this to require many months of recovery and up to a year before your new knee feels completely comfortable. Physical therapy will begin in the hospital on the very day you have surgery. Your leg may be placed in a continuous passive motion machine which will gently move the leg for 4 to 6 hours a day, each day that you are in the hospital. Physical therapy will start on the day after your surgery.
By the time you are released from the hospital, depending on how well you are coping post-surgically, you should be able to walk with the assistance of a walker or crutches, as long as the surface is even, go up 2 or 3 stairs, be able to extend your knee full and be able to bend it at a 90 degree angle. Your physical therapist will teach you to go upstairs leading off with your unaffected leg and go down stairs by leading off with the leg you had surgery on. Remember during the time that you are having physical therapy for knee replacement, it is important that while you do the exercises to improve your knee daily, it is just as important that you do not try to rush the return of your daily routine.
It's important to remember that during healing you not use a pillow under your knee while laying down or sitting to avoid the knee staying in that bent position. Swelling will be common and can be treated by elevating your ankle and knee above your heart and using ice packs. Creams like Ben Gay which are used as analgesics should not be used on your knee. The greatest physical therapy for knee replacement patients is walking. When appropriate, biking and swimming are also encouraged, usually 4-6 weeks after surgery, making sure to take care how you enter and exit a pool or use the bike. Stationary bikes should have no resistance on the pedals.
While physical therapy for knee replacement recover may continue on for several months, other activities can be slowly added back into your schedule. After six weeks, normal physical relations with your partner may resume. If you play golf, this may be resumed after 12 weeks, but activities that cause excessive stress and can wear out a replaced knee quickly include football, jogging, jumping, and other jarring activities that may loosen the hardware. As each knee may only be operated on twice with this type of surgery, it's very important to follow the instructions of your doctors and physical therapists carefully.