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Health Information and Tools > Health A-Z >  When You’re Having a Knee Replacement: Going Home and Managing at Home
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When You’re Having a Knee Replacement

Going Home and Managing at Home

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Going Home​

You’ll go home 1 to 2 days after surgery if the doctor thinks you’re ready. Before you are ready to go home, your healthcare team will check that you’ve met the goals for your new knee:

  • You can get into and out of a bed and chair without help.
  • You can stand and walk safely with your crutches or walker.
  • You can go up and down stairs safely.
  • You can walk the distance you will need to walk in your home.
  • You can do your home exercises and daily living activities safely.
  • You know what movements are safe and not safe for your operated leg (see Activity Guidelines).
  • You’re eating and going to the bathroom normally.
  • Your incision is healing. If you have to change your bandage, you and your buddy will be shown how. Note: It’s normal to lose some feeling in the skin around the incision. The feeling should be back in a few months.
  • Your pain is under control. You’ll be given a prescription for pain medicine. If you get constipated, talk to your pharmacist about over-the-counter stool softeners.

Your healthcare team may decide you need more help before you can go home.

How you do after your surgery depends mainly on you.

  • Do your home exercises regularly. Increase the number of times you do them each day. The sooner your leg muscles become strong enough, the sooner you can get back to your normal activities.
  • Take pain medicine at least 30 to 45 minutes before exercising if you find the exercises make you too sore.
  • Use your walking aids until your surgeon or physical therapist tells you that you can stop.
  • Walk often but don’t go further than you can manage safely and comfortably. Short walks done often are better than a single long walk. Have someone come with you on the first few walks in case you run into a problem. Make sure to bring your cell phone in case you need to call for help.

You may still have some discomfort for a long time after surgery. If so, talk to your Case Manager about the best way to manage it.

​​​​​Managing at Home

You’ll learn new ways to do your everyday activities safely and lower the risk of injuring your new knee while you’re recovering. Do a little more at a time, being careful not to do any movements or positions that could injure your knee (see Activity Guidelines).​

Sitting in a Chair or on the Toilet

Chair: Choose a sturdy chair with a firm seat and armrests. You can raise the seat height by adding a firm cushion. Don’t sit on low or soft chairs and couches. Don’t use chairs that have wheels or that rock or swivel.

Toilet: You may need a raised toilet seat and toilet armrests. Make sure the toilet paper is within easy reach.

To sit:

  1. Back up until you feel the chair or toilet seat at the back of your legs.
  2. Slide your operated leg forward slightly.
  3. Bend both knees and gently lower yourself onto the chair or toilet, using the armrests, countertop, or sink for support.

Do the reverse to stand. Don’t use your walker to raise yourself from the chair or toilet. Always push up with your hands from where you’re seated.

Getting In and Out of Bed

  • Make sure the top of your bed is 5 to 10cm (2 to 4in) above your knee.
  • Don’t use soft mattresses or waterbeds.

Support your operated leg with pillows when lying on your other side.

To get into bed:

  1. Sit on the bed the same way you would sit on a chair.
  2.  
  3. Slide your buttocks back until your knees are on the bed.
  4.  
  5. Pivot on your buttocks as you lift your legs onto the bed. Remember to keep your legs apart.

Do the reverse to get out of bed.

Getting Dressed

Use special equipment to help dress yourself (for example: a reacher, long-handled shoehorn, dressing stick, elastic shoelaces, or sock aid).

 
  • Choose loose-fitting clothing, including socks.
  • Wear low-heeled shoes with elastic laces.
  • Dress your operated leg first and undress it last.

Bathing

You won’t be able to sit in the bottom of the tub to bathe or stand to shower for about 3 months.

You should bathe from a sitting position at the sink, in the tub, or in a walk-in shower with a chair for the first 3 months. Have someone help you get in and out of the tub and with showering until you can do this safely on your own.

Once you’re in the tub, don’t reach forward for the faucet. Instead, have your buddy, family, or a friend turn the faucet on and off. If you’re steady enough, you can stand up to turn it on and off yourself.

To get into the tub:

  1. Back up slowly and carefully until you can feel the tub against the back of your legs. Hold onto the tub grab bar for support and, with your other hand, reach back for the bath seat, and lower your buttocks onto it.
  2.  
  3. Pivot on your buttocks and lift your legs one at a time, up and over the side of the tub.
  4.  
  5. Use a hand-held showerhead, long-handled sponge, and soap-on-a-rope so you don’t lean forward.
     

Do the reverse to get out of the tub.

Showering

Have your buddy, family, or a friend help you get into the shower and keep your walker steady, if needed. If there’s a grab bar on the wall, use it instead of the walker. A grab bar is more stable.

To get into the shower:

 
  1. Walk to the lip of the shower and turn so that you’re facing away from the shower stall.
  2. Reach back with your hand for the back of a seat placed in the shower, leaving your other hand on the walker.
  3. Move your operated leg forward.
  4. Sit on the seat.
  5. Lift your legs over the lip of the shower stall and turn to sit facing the faucet.

Do the reverse to get out of the shower.

Note: You can stand in the shower if it’s too small for a seat and you’re steady on your feet. Install grab bars and use a rubber bath mat to prevent slipping.

Doing Laundry

  • Have someone do laundry for you. If this isn’t possible, do smaller loads. Make sure you carry your loads in a plastic bag, backpack, or wheeled cart.
  • Use a reacher to get your laundry in or out of front-loading machines.
  • Sit on a high stool if ironing.

Getting In and Out of a Car

  • You may find a higher vehicle easier to get in and out of (depending on your height).
  • Avoid small cars, low bucket seats, and vehicles that you have to step up into, if you can.
  • Sit in the front seat whenever possible. Your therapist will tell you how to do car transfers depending on the car.
  • Have your driver park the car about 1m (3ft) away from the curb. Have the driver slide the passenger seat back as far as it will go. You may find that placing a large plastic bag on the seat makes sliding into and out of the car much easier. You can also put a pillow on the seat to make it higher if needed.
  1. Back up slowly and carefully with your walking aid until you can feel the edge of the car against the back of your legs.
  2.  
  3. Hold the back of the seat and the dashboard or car door support. Slide your operated leg forward slightly, bend both your knees, and sit.
  4.  
  5. Slide your buttocks back toward the middle of the car. Pivot on your buttocks as you lift your legs one at a time into the car.
  6.  

Do the reverse to get out of the car.

Driving

Your surgeon will tell you when it’s safe to start driving again. Most people can drive starting 6 weeks after surgery. Your healthcare team will give you information about transportation services in your area.

Working in the Kitchen

  • Keep the items you use often within easy reach. Use a long-handled reacher if items are out of reach. Try not to store food on low shelves so you don’t have to bend to reach them.
  • Use prepared meals, frozen meals, a service like Meals on Wheels, or order in food.
  • Use the oven only if you can do so without twisting your knee. A microwave or stovetop is best.
  • Slide objects along the countertops instead of lifting them.
  • Use a wheeled trolley or cart to move items when using your walking aid.
  • Carry things in an apron with large pockets, a waist pouch, backpack, or a bag attached to your walker.
  • Sit on a high stool when working at the counter.
  • Use containers with tight-fitting lids to move foods and liquids (like a Thermos® or thermal mug with lid) to prevent being burned.
 
​​​

Shopping

  • Have your buddy, family, or a friend help you with shopping.
  • Shop at stores that have elevators and parking that’s close by.
  • Bring your walking aid with you.
  • Bring your reacher to pick up items from the lower shelves.
  • Use a backpack to carry the things you buy.
  • Buy canned or frozen goods to cut back on the number of times you have to shop.

Note: Some grocery stores will deliver. Check with the store you shop at.

Doing Housework and Yard Work

  • You should be able to do light housekeeping, such as dusting and washing dishes.
  • Have your buddy, family, or a friend help with heavy work, such as vacuuming, washing floors, changing bed sheets, cutting the grass, and shovelling snow.
  • Take out small amounts of garbage at a time or have someone take out garbage for you.
  • Hire help if possible.

Having Dental Work

Make sure you speak with your surgeon or Case Manager about using antibiotics before any dental work.

Activities and Sports

Some activities and sports are harder on the knees than others. Talk to your surgeon about when you can start doing the ones you enjoy. As a guideline, you should walk every day, beginning with short walks taken often. Increase your distance a little at a time and be careful not to overdo it. Be careful not to fall and injure your knee (see Activity Guidelines).

You may feel some stiffness in your new knee, especially when doing activities or sports where you have to bend your knee. One of the goals of surgery is to improve your knee’s flexibility or range of movement, and reduce the stiffness. How much knee movement you have often has to do with how much stiffness you had before surgery.

You may sometimes feel clicking in your knee when you bend it or when walking. This should lessen over time, as the muscles around the knee get stronger. Kneeling on a new knee is usually uncomfortable. Don’t kneel on the knee until your surgeon tells you it is safe to do so.

Travel

Your new knee may set off the metal detectors at the airport. Before you go through the security check, tell the security agent you had a knee replacement and have metal parts in your knee.

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Current as of: May 6, 2019

Author: Bone and Joint Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services