Managing Pain After Total Knee Replacement

Managing Pain After Total Knee Replacement1Total knee replacement or total knee arthroplasty is one of the most common orthopedic surgeries performed in the United States. It is commonly performed in people that have chronic painful conditions like knee arthritis or joint inflammation. While having a knee replacement can relieve you from the chronic pain you have, you might experience pain after the surgery.

Like many surgeries, knee replacement is associated with post-operative pain, swelling, and redness which is completely normal. However, Dr. Dewan and his staff want you to be as comfortable as possible even during your recovery. If the pain is untreated and continues to worsen, it might cause you to damage your newly replaced joint.

Ways to Manage Pain

Generally, the pain and inflammation caused by surgery can take around a few weeks to subside. It can take up to 3 months for you to resume light activities and up to 6 – 12 months to fully resume your routine movements. Starting your recovery journey in a slow and steady manner will help you get back to your daily activities faster. Here are some methods to help you manage your pain after surgery.

Physical Therapy

Most patients are required to begin moving their knee hours after their surgery. One of the best ways to manage pain is to start doing light movements and exercises prescribed by a physical therapist. Your physical therapist will teach you some simple and low-intensity exercises, massages, and stretches to increase your joint mobility, improve circulation, and recovery. Physical therapy may also include the use of a TENs (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit to increase blood flow and reduce pain in the surrounding soft tissues.


It is considered standard practice to continue some pain killers after a total knee replacement. Most patients are prescribed opioid analgesics (painkillers) for a short duration after their surgery to minimize post-op pain. Opioids have significant side effects like dizziness, nausea, and tolerance so they are used very briefly. Adjunctively, a wide variety of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are available to treat pain and inflammation in your knee joint. You should consult your doctor about the use of painkillers.

Heat and Cold Therapy

Cold therapy helps alleviate pain and swelling by constricting blood vessels, which reduces blood flow and numbs the pain in the affected region, and helps to ensure that your condition won’t get worse. While heat therapy, relaxes tense muscles and increases blood flow to the specific areas to prevent stiffness and allow your muscles to heal faster.

We often recommend patients use a combination so that they can alleviate pain, swelling, and inflammation while also relaxing the muscles and soft tissue in the area. Alternate from hot and cold therapies using 10-minute increments as needed.


Rest is the sole best remedy for any musculoskeletal conditions, even a total knee replacement. Having good sleep, avoiding excessive movements, and strains on your newly replaced knee joint will help you reduce pain and swelling.

Try To Stay Active

As for many musculoskeletal diseases, movement can be a universal anti-pain therapy. For knee replacement, especially, small amounts of activity will help you get back to your normal routine quicker and pain-free.

Start with small walks within your home and then slowly move to walking around outside. Use your walking aid such as crutches, walker, or cane as necessary.

Don’t stay in one position for more than an hour, if you must rest for long periods be sure to elevate the knee.

Ask your doctor about which activities are right for you at certain stages of recovery.

Remember to take your time and listen to your body. If you try to rush through your recovery or take on too much too fast, you can injure yourself and the new replacement, extending your recovery period.

Having pain after your knee replacement surgery is common, but can be significantly reduced by following these tips. Remember that though pain is normal after an operation, it should not be unbearable. Speak with your doctor about your pain level and note any changes. Our team is here to help you on the road to a full and healthy life. For more information on knee replacement or to schedule an appointment, contact Ashvin K. Dewan, MD today.

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