Pain is a major concern for patients on the verge of complete knee surgery. Post-operative knee replacement patients want to know what their life after their surgery will be like, how much discomfort they will have, and how many narcotics or other medications they will have to take. When practicing pain management for total knee surgery, we recommend patients to follow a simple mantra: Rest, Ice, Medicate, Elevate.
Total knee surgery takes a heavy toll on the body, so you can’t expect to resume your regular daily activities within four or five days of the operation. Think about it this way, your knee joints have suffered damage over time; your healing and recovery will also have to happen over time.
Ice is absolutely essential in knee replacement surgery recovery for pain management. Ice can reduce pain with medication and can be used alone with less severe pain. We recommend an ice machine with special wrap-around compression bags for patients with knee replacement. These bags are filled with iced water and wrapped gently around your knee.
Your orthopedic surgeon will most likely have you on medication for narcotic pain after your knee surgery. You can expect at least a few weeks of medication. There are side effects, as with all narcotics, but we recommend that you follow the instructions just as they are given to you. If your surgeon’s prescription does not manage your pain levels properly, remember to contact your primary doctor.
We suggest you raise your legs as much as you can. We mean to have your feet higher than your hips by “elevate.” Place a couple of pillows on the leg rest if you’re on a recliner to keep your legs supported. Use lots of pillows on the chair opposite you if you’re on a chair. Place some rolled up blankets under the mattress at the end of your bed if you’re in bed. These techniques will reduce the amount of pain in your knees to keep your legs elevated.