During knee replacement recovery, avoiding certain activities and behaviors is important to ensure a smooth healing process and minimize the risk of complications.

In knee replacement surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, surgeons recap the worn-out surfaces of a knee joint with an artificial joint or prosthesis.

This article discusses what people should avoid doing after knee replacement surgery to help with recovery.

It also looks at the possible complications of knee replacement surgery.

Learn more about knee replacement surgery here.

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To ensure the best possible outcome after a knee replacement, people should avoid the following:


A person should avoid overdoing physical activities, especially in the initial stages of recovery. Pushing too hard can strain the healing tissues and delay recovery. People should follow their surgeon’s recommendations regarding exercise and physical therapy.

Ignoring pain or discomfort

Some pain is a natural part of the recovery process, but paying attention to how the body feels is important. People should consult their doctor if they experience severe or persistent pain, swelling, or unusual symptoms. Ignoring these signs can lead to complications or infection.

Neglecting physical therapy

Physical therapy is a crucial part of knee replacement recovery. It helps restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the knee. A person should avoid skipping or neglecting physical therapy exercises and follow any guidance a physical therapist provides.

Learn more about how physical therapy can help here.

Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption

Smoking can impair the healing process by reducing blood flow and increasing the risk of complications. Excessive alcohol consumption can also interfere with healing and increase the risk of falls or accidents. It is best to avoid smoking and limit alcohol intake during recovery.

Ignoring wound care

Proper wound care is essential to prevent infection. People should follow their surgeon’s instructions for cleaning and dressing the incision site. Pets must be kept away from the wound, and a person should use clean sheets and towels.

If a person notices signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth, or discharge, they should contact their doctor immediately.

Engaging in high-impact activities

A person should avoid high-impact activities, such as running, jumping, or participating in contact sports, as these can put excessive stress on the knee joint and compromise the implant. People should consult their doctor or physical therapist for guidance on gradually resuming activities.

Just as there are things people should avoid, there are certain things they can do to promote a speedy recovery. These include:

  • Medication instructions: People should take all prescribed medications as their doctor directs. It is important not to discontinue or adjust the dosage without consulting a doctor. Medications may include:
    • pain medication
    • antibiotics
    • a blood thinner to prevent blood clots
    • medications to manage specific conditions
  • Healthy diet: Good nutrition is important for healing and overall well-being. People should follow a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Adequate protein and iron intake can support tissue repair and promote healing.
  • Assistive devices: Doctors may recommend using assistive devices such as crutches, walkers, or canes. Proper use of these devices can prevent falls and assist in recovery.

Recovery time after knee replacement surgery can vary depending on several factors, including individual differences, the extent of the surgery, overall health, and adherence to postoperative care guidelines.

Generally, it takes several months to achieve a full recovery. Here is a general timeline of the recovery process:

  • Hospital stay: Most people stay in the hospital for 1–3 days after surgery, depending on their progress and the surgeon’s recommendation.
  • Initial recovery (1–6 weeks): During this phase, the focus is on wound healing, managing pain and swelling, and regaining mobility and strength. Physical therapy begins in the hospital and continues as an outpatient or at home.
  • Intermediate recovery (6 weeks to 3 months): During this period, a person should expect continued improvement in mobility and strength. Physical therapy sessions are typically ongoing, focusing on gradually increasing the range of motion, strength training, and functional activities.
  • Advanced recovery (3–6 months): By this stage, most people have made significant progress in their recovery. Range of motion and strength continue to improve, and activities of daily living become easier to perform. Physical therapy may happen less often.
  • Full recovery (6 months to 1 year): Most individuals experience a substantial recovery and can return to normal activities with improved knee function. However, the pace of recovery can vary, and some people may require more time to reach optimal recovery.

Learn more about what to expect from knee surgery rehabilitation here.

While knee replacement surgery is generally safe and effective, as with any surgical procedure, potential complications can occur. Although many are rare, occurring in less than 2% of patients, being aware of these complications is important.

Here are some possible complications of knee replacement:

  • Infection: This can occur at the site of the surgery. It may be superficial or deep around the implant. Signs of infection include increased pain, redness, swelling, warmth, and drainage from the incision. A person should contact their surgeon for immediate medical attention if they have signs of infection.
  • Blood clots: A blood clot, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), can form in the veins of the leg. If a blood clot travels to the lungs, it can cause the potentially life threatening condition pulmonary embolism. Taking a blood thinner should minimize the risk of blood clots.
  • Implant problems: In some cases, problems may arise with the artificial knee joint. The implant may become loose or dislocated, or there can be issues with the alignment or stability of the components.
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion: Despite knee replacement surgery, some people may experience stiffness and a limited range of motion in the knee joint.
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage: During surgery, there is a small risk of nerve or blood vessel damage around the knee. Most nerve injuries are temporary, but they can be permanent in rare cases.
  • Allergic reactions: Although rare, some individuals may have allergic reactions to the materials in the implant. For people with a known metal allergy, a surgeon will use an implant with a lower risk of causing an allergic reaction.
  • Persistent pain: While knee replacement surgery generally alleviates pain, some people may experience persistent or new onset pain after the procedure. Pain may arise from the hip or spine. A doctor will assess this before recommending further surgery.
  • General surgical risks: Knee replacement surgery carries the general risks in relation to any surgical procedure, such as bleeding, blood loss requiring transfusion, adverse reactions to anesthetic, and wound healing problems.

Learn about knee replacement infection here.

After knee replacement surgery, people must follow the instructions from their surgeon and physical therapist, including proper wound care, prescribed exercises, and activity restrictions.

These guidelines will help ensure a successful recovery and minimize complications.