Mobility after knee replacement

I am due to have a total knee replacement in January and am wondering exactly how mobile you are on arriving home. I know you have to be able to go up and down stairs before you go home but really that is not a test of how mobile you are.

I live on my own and am concerned that, together with my RA stiffness and pain, I am going to have problems in the first few days of coming out of hospital.

Can you put weight on the leg with the new joint or do you have to hop along on crutches?

How do you lie in bed? I am unable to lie on my back and wonder if it is possible to lay on your side at first.

Any tips on carrying items if I have to use 2 crutches.

Any advice or information would be appreciated. Thanks.

Jo

12 Replies

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  • Jo, you can lie anyway you can get comfy. You shouldn't need crutches, you'll have sticks. I'm not sure about you going home to an empty house you will have to ask your drs about that. You will be bandaged and you will have clips in your knee. You must feel comfortable going up and down the stairs. You might have to go into some care home for a start,again you must check with your drs.You will have exercises to do after the clips come out and you will be expected to be mobile as well. I hope it all goes well for you in january. Sylvi.xx

  • It seems that different hospitals do different things!

    I used crutches following my knee replacement & had stitches in rather than clips.

    I had to do exercises from day one, I managed stairs but with using crutches.

    You can walk on the knee but it is quite sore.

    I used pillows at night to support the knee, like you I can't lie on my back!

    You do find your own way but I think you will need some support when you get home, especially with cooking & carrying things.

    Good luck!

    Pauline

  • try and find a large bum bag to sling round your waist - there are ones that are big enough to hold books and so on - I had a much more minor knee op and I found one for cameras in a charity shop that was extremely useful. I even worked out how to put a travel mug of tea in it. Also a long knee pillow might help get comfortable in bed. And start to see if you can find people to help out on first week or so, there are various voluntary organisations still around who might be able to provide some short term help. But may also be official support around from hospital, and equipment on loan sich as bath boards, but all these things are very slow to organise... Pollyx

  • teh only thing i know about this is dont slack on the exersises that are given you and tel them about any pain afterwards you may get.

    some people dont do the exersise and that can sometimes leed to problems.

    i belive ya have to get the blood flowing round and get it moving as best you can when they give you the exersises to do and all sould come out fine

    mate of mine had 2 done was in agony for years now he says i can walk 6 miles ok took 1 month to pull back before they would do the other.

    hope everything goes well for you and your marching round soon

  • Hi

    I had both knees done in last year,

    I had crutches, ask for equipment from medi-quip, it's on loan and great aid, I got trolley

    on wheels so I put food, drink etc on and move it around the house, a commode so didn't have to go upstairs all day long.

    You can walk on the leg with the aid of crutches, you should be doing light exercise from the day after surgery, you shouldn't be allowed out of hospital until u can lift your leg up nd down on the bed, at our hospital.

    I tied my dressing gown belt round my ankle and pulled it up and down! Trying to show my knee what it had to do.

    It will be different for you thou if no help at home

    All goes great in January

    Joe

  • Hi Jo

    Firstly good luck with the surgery. if your worried about going home to an empty house ask to speak to the hospital social worker/OT they will carry out an assessment to ensure you'll be safe and can manage meals, if there's a problem they can arrange home care for 6wks after leaving hospital.

    Beth xx

  • Thank you to everyone who answered my question. It does seem as though I might need help around the house for a few days. Trouble is I have already asked about this and was told that I was too young - I'm 66 and have both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis!

    My son can be around during the day but my concern is when I am on my own at night and first thing in the morning. I expect as long as I am OK to get out of bed and can move about I will manage.

    Thanks again for your answers.

    Jo

  • Hello Joan

    It seems everyone's experience of this operation is different. I also live alone, am 66, have both ostero and RA and I had my left knee replaced a year ago. I did wonder how things would pan out afterwards, for while my sons would be able to take me shopping and hoover/wash floors once a week they had to be at work and I would be on my own most of the time.

    The RA was well controlled when I went into hospital but I was very concerned about being off drugs for a few weeks and worried about using crutches afterwards as I felt sure it would cause a flare in shoulders elbows wrists etc.

    I wanted to be awake during the operation which was straightforward, however, would recommend you take in music or a story as it was quite boring just lying there: there is the option of sleeping lightly through it if you prefer. No clips were put in the leg: it was stiched and a huge waterproof plaster put over the wound to keep it free from infection.

    I was able to put weight on the leg as soon as I got out of bed - I'd asked if it was OK to do this. I'm not saying it wasn't a bit sore but relative to the pain we experience from RA it was manageable: there was a greater degree of pain for a while when moving the leg sideways or hanging it loose over the bed when getting out also when lying in bed after exercising but there are painkillers for this and this pain eased up within a couple of weeks.

    Crutches were tried initially, but as I was putting no pressure at all on them I was given sticks and was soon scuttling along - learning to go up and down stairs was relatively easy. I returned home 5 days after the operation. Within moments I realised that I would have to ditch one of the sticks if I wanted to make a cup of coffee or prepare food. While I took one stick with me about the house I frequently forgot to use it.

    I followed all the instructions, did my exercises, rested etc. I had stocked up on books and videos to ensure I rested and wasn't too bored. I was able to drive 2 weeks after the operation (I have an automatic and it was my left knee) and I did find I could change sheets by being very aware not to twist my knee - my mattress is not really heavy.

    I did break the rules once and got just a small bag of shopping about 2 weeks after the operation which resulted in very puffy wrists. But as an all over flare didn't follow it proved to be quite a positive thing as it led to me ditching the second stick - it was too painful to use. After that I didn't use either of the sticks again inside the house.

    As regards the night time - if you get appropriate painkillers it will allow you to get some sleep (oro morph was the most effective). The worst of the pain was over in about two weeks and I didn't find it difficult to get up out of bed though a little painful. In the past RA has meant that I have had to slide my feet from side to side in order to inch along - it was nothing like that.

    Before I went into hospital my consultant said those of us with RA tend to recover more quickly as we are so used to getting on with things and I think this is even more so when you live alone. The physio said that as I was living alone I needn't wear the support stocking (which was just as well as I couldn't get it off let alone put another one on). Her reasoning was that I would need to do more exercise as I would have to make all my own cups of coffee, prepare meals etc. The moving about, exercising was as important as the resting.

    It all went very smoothly, there was no infection so I was able to go back onto Enbrel fairly soon afterwards and most importantly the knee works brilliantly.

    So I would say just make sure the house is up together before you go into hospital; have some food prepared in the freezer; stock up on store cupboard; leave the washing for a couple of weeks and if there is no one to hoover/wash floors then don't worry about it. Just put your nose in a book and you won't notice the dust - this bit was quite easy for me as I tend to do that naturally anyway. I do find as an added bonus if you concentrate on a book or other it does seem to push any pain into the background.

    Hope this helps and that all goes well with you. Though tiring, the experience was so much more straightforward than I had anticipated.

    Best wishes

    Jude

  • Hi Jude

    Thank you so much for your answer. It seems we are in very similar situations, I also have osteo-arthritis.

    I agree with you about RA patients dealing with pain and just getting on with it. When you live in pain every day you get used to it. I have had 2 major operations already this year and if I had not had RA I would have done a lot more moaning about the pain I was in. Oromorph proved a life saver in both those situations.

    About 4-5 days after both operations I went into a major flare (probably because of coming off anti-TNF) so I will have to be very careful this time to let the medics know as I always seem to come out at the weekend when it's not so easy to get access to help.

    You have given me hope that it won't be as bad as I had imagined and yes, I agree about the dust, it's my normal inclination anyway to ignore it for quite a while!!

    How long was it before you felt able to go out and about on your own? I have a really active social life and as I don't know the exact date of my op I am still booking things to do in January and I know I will be itching to do them even if it's soon after coming home.

    Jo

  • You were very unfortunate to get flares so soon after your operations. My RA was very well controlled when I went in to hospital and that may have allowed a little leeway before the body notices it's not receiving its usual supply of drugs.

    People's experiences and recovery times seem to vary so I can only say how it was for me. I was able to drive 2 weeks after the op but I did pace myself so that if there was any suggestion of a flare I rested more (eg: after I had disobeyed the rules and carried a small bag of shopping).

    You probably won't feel like going out during the first 2 weeks (one of which you will be in hospital) and you do need to get the balance right between rest and exercise. I was able to drive myself to the physio sessions - doing the exercises is really important.

    I suppose it all depends what your social activities involve. Driving somewhere then being able to sit down for a couple of hours is fine but it will probably be enough. I always took my stick with me because the ground is very uneven and I didn't feel confident without them for several weeks though happy without them indoors.

    There's no doubt you will feel tired and not want to do as much as usual. Initially it will be enough to take care of yourself and get up the stairs to the loo. Perhaps the best thing to do is make arrangements for activities that it will be OK to cancel if you don't feel like it especially if you have a flare.

    Probably not a good idea to book tickets to see The Stones or Queen too soon after the op (mostly because when you hear the music it will make you want to move in ways that wouldn't be wise) but certainly have something to look forward to. The recovery will be just like handling RA really - you have to be good with ambiguity because it is such an erratic disease: you have to be flexible, playing it by ear or joint as the case may be: you have to be patient and balance the rest with the exercise. The dos/don'ts list and your own body does guide you through it.

    Hope all goes smoothly for you - I'm probably going to have the right knee replaced next year and am not looking forward no driving for 8 weeks.

    Jude

  • Thanks again. Most of the activities will be going to the theatre, either for performances or to events. I usually walk to the tram stop and from the tram stop to the theatre but if things are tough I can always get a taxi. My problem with that is - I am wondering how far I will be able to bend my knee (to sit in the seats) and how soon can I hope to get a reasonable 90 degrees at least. I know it depends on me doing the exercises, but I hope it is fairly quick.

    Having had parts of my spine fused and a total hysterectomy this year I feel as though I am getting to be an expert at healing after ops. I must admit I do tend to push myself as I hate to miss out on invitations etc. I am grateful to everyone who answered my questions as I needed to know how much I might be able to do and how soon. I think with some organisation I will be able to manage OK on my own for the first few weeks.

    Just seems as though I have spent this year planning my life around them and with the rotten weather this summer I am also itching to get back into the garden. Not something I will have to worry about with this op, thank goodness.

    Thank you so much for all the information.

    Jo

  • Jo, the theatre is another thing we have in common - my favourtie 'activity'. Apart from my love of the theatre I find it's a place where you feel just the same as everyone else attending.

    I've checked on dates and 3 weeks to the day of my op I was able to drive to the book group I attend and had no difficulty sitting in a chair - the bending of the knee was fairly speedy for me.

    Sometimes though there is not much leg room in a theatre and it depends on whether you would be able to move your knee when you wanted to - may be there are some seats with more leg room. The other factor is that seats tend to be lower so more strain on your good knee getting up but obviously you can take your stick(s) with you. One other thing to consider is that other people are not always aware and careful so you would need to keep them at arms length to avoid the possibility of being bumped into or knocked over. It will take a lttle while to feel completely confident of your balance.

    I wouldn't contemplate using the tram at that stage as you probably won't be able to walk that far comfortably and stand waiting for the tram without exhausting yourself and risking a flare which you really don't want. It is important not to 'overdo it' - how many times have we heard that in the course of our lives with RA - but it is the case when recuperating from this op.

    I did manage well by myself but definitely played it by ear. It really will depend on how you progress and how you are feeling - don't underestimate how tired you will feel. It may be a little while longer before you feel like venturing out into a bustling atmosphere. You need to build up your stamina but you know all that from the ops you have undergone recently.

    Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery and return to the theatre.

    Jude

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