People who have had a knee replacement can take precautions to protect their new knees. Below are tips and safeguard measures that can help increase comfort and decrease the risk of injuries.

Unlike hip replacement patients, who must be vigilant not to dislocate their new hips, knee replacement patients have a relatively low risk of dislocation (0.15% to 0.5% 1 Lombardi AV, Jr, Mallory TH, Vaughn BK, Krugel R, Honkala TK, Sorscher M, et al. Dislocation following primary posterior-stabilized total knee arthroplasty. J Arthroplasty. 1993;8:633–9. , 2 Hossain S, Ayeko C, Anwar M, Elsworth CF, McGee H. Dislocation of Insall-Burstein II modified total knee arthroplasty. J Arthroplasty. 2001;16:233–5. , 3 Villanueva M, Ríos-Luna A, Pereiro J, Fahandez-Saddi H, Pérez-Caballer A. Dislocation following total knee arthroplasty: A report of six cases. Indian Journal of Orthopaedics. 2010;44(4):438-443. doi:10.4103/0019-5413.69318. ).

See Total Knee Replacement Risks and Complications

Use a Walker or Cane

A walker or cane can help ensure that a person does not fall and damage the new knee. Walkers and canes also signal to strangers to be cautious and give the person more space. Strangers in public areas are generally less likely to bump, jostle, or startle a person using a cane or walker.

Most knee replacement patients are able to decrease their use of canes and walkers over time.


Treat the Pain

Some patients are tempted to “tough it out” because they do not want to take pain medications, either because of potential side effects or fear of addiction. However, uncontrolled pain can make it difficult to participate in rehabilitation exercises and can even lead to chronic pain.

Knee replacement patients are advised talk to their doctors about post-surgical pain as well as concerns regarding medications. Together they can and come up with pain management plan that works for the patient, making adjustments as needed.

Read more about Managing the Pain of Joint Replacement.

Treat the Swelling

Knee swelling is not only uncomfortable, it can make it range-of-motion exercises difficult or impossible. These range-of-motion exercises are important to recovery and rehabilitation.

See Knee Strengthening Exercises

Patients can treat swelling by applying cold packs and elevating the affected leg for 20 to 30 minute intervals, or as directed by the health care provider. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which used for pain control, also help reduce inflammation.

Plan Ahead

In the first couple of weeks following knee replacement surgery, many people are tired and prone to falls. People can maximize rest time and reduce the chance of falls by planning ahead. For example:

  • Plan the day to minimize the number of trips up and down stairs or in and out of a car.
  • Put essential items like the TV remote control, phone, and tissues where they can be easily accessed.

Read more about how to prepare the home for recovery from knee replacement surgery.

Communicate Priorities to the Physical Therapist

A physical therapist will personalize a knee rehabilitation program to help a patient reach certain goals. For example, if a patient wants to bike long distances, the physical therapist will teach exercises to prepare the knee for bike pedaling.

No matter what the patients’ goals, physical therapy is essential to knee replacement’s overall success. Patients who attend their physical therapy appointments and do their prescribed exercises tend to recover more quickly and have better outcomes than those who do not.


Remember Long-Term Care

People are advised to:

  • Keep up with their physical therapy exercises to maintain strong muscles around the knee, which will support the artificial joint.
  • Try to avoid infections. Infectious bacteria enter the body though a cut or wound, major dental procedure (e.g. root canal), or other surgical procedures and eventually reach the artificial knee. An infected artificial knee may require an operation.
  • Follow up with the surgeon regularly. Patients are typically asked to follow up with their orthopedist every year or two to check on the artificial knee. These appointments can help detect problems with the artificial knee before the patient notices symptoms.

    See Choosing a Surgeon for Total Knee Replacement

Long-term care can help avoid problems or correct problems early, when they pose fewer risks and are easier to treat.

Dr. K.C. Owsley is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine with Arch Health Medical Group. He has several years of experience performing arthroscopy and reconstructive surgery of the shoulder, elbow, knee, and ankle.