Pain and Stiffness After Knee Replacement Surgery

Pain and Stiffness After Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee pain can make walking, climbing stairs, or physical activities strenuous. With reduced mobility, you may experience muscle loss and function. Fortunately, you can undergo knee replacement surgery to alleviate this pain.

But why do you still feel pain after your surgery? How can you manage the pain? How long does pain and stiffness last after knee replacement?

This article explores pain and stiffness after knee replacement surgery. We also discuss at-home treatments and how physical therapy in Bedford, TX, can help.

What is Knee Replacement Surgery?

Experiencing pain and disability in your knee joint might require knee replacement surgery. This surgery involves replacing damaged parts of your knee with artificial ones. The artificial knee can help your knee function smoothly without causing pain. Knee replacement surgery aims to relieve knee pain if other treatments do not work for you.

If you have arthritis, your doctor may prescribe the surgery. You may also undergo knee replacement surgery if you have difficulties carrying out your everyday tasks, like walking or climbing the stairs.

What Are The Risks of Knee Replacement Surgery?

All surgical procedures, including knee replacement surgery, come with their risks. This is because the surgery is invasive. That is, it requires your surgeon to make incisions. Some of the risks of knee replacement surgery include the following;


After your surgery, you are likely to experience bleeding within the first few hours. You are likely to bleed from the incision sites and the cut bone surface. 


If bacteria enters your wound post-surgery, you may develop an infection. You should seek immediate medical attention if you notice symptoms of an infection. Severe infections can make you lose your knee function and cause other medical problems. 


You may experience a fracture during surgery if your bones are brittle or if the procedure is done aggressively. Your doctor in Bedford will assess your risk before performing the surgery. They are also experts at performing the surgery carefully.

Loose Prosthetic

Your doctor will replace damaged parts of your knee with a prosthetic. Unfortunately, the prosthetic can loosen over time or even wear down. If this occurs, you will feel knee pain, especially when walking. 

Pain and Stiffness

After your surgery, you will still feel pain and stiffness. This pain is normal and should subside with pain medications over time. However, if your pain lasts for more than a few weeks, it could be a sign of another complication.

Knee stiffness after knee replacement can limit mobility and make it difficult to perform daily tasks. If you cannot stand or stretch your knee, contact your doctor for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

How To Treat Pain and Stiffness from Knee Replacement Surgery at Home

You can manage pain and stiffness at home after your knee replacement surgery. Fortunately, these treatments are not over the top or expensive. Your doctor will let you know the best one for you.

Some at-home treatments for pain after your procedure include

Over-the-Counter Medications

Pain relievers like aspirin, and ibuprofen can reduce swelling and knee replacement stiffness after surgery. This treatment option can help you move your knee quickly. Although these drugs relieve pain, it is essential to use them as prescribed. An overdose can cause other complications.

Elevation and rest

Resting your knee can also relieve pain. You can elevate your knee above your heart level to help you manage swelling. Placing a pillow under your calf or ankle can help. Avoid placing the pillow directly under your knee.

Ice Packs

Ice packs can help reduce swelling and calm your knee. Place the ice pack on your knee for only 15 to 20 minutes at a time. You should also wrap it in a towel. Avoid direct contact between the ice pack and your knee. It can lead to frostbite.

You can place ice packs on your knee throughout the day. However, leave 90 minutes to 2 hours between application times. You can contact your doctor if you experience skin color, temperature, and sensation changes. 


Activity can help you manage pain after your knee replacement surgery. Professionals at Barkman & Smith Physical Therap will prescribe exercises you can do at home after your surgery. These exercises will strengthen your knee muscles to prevent stiffness. Also, doing these exercises regularly will relieve your pain and improve your mobility.

When exercising at home, ensure you don’t overstretch yourself to avoid aggravating your injury. Some at-home exercises after knee replacement surgery include;

Leg Lifts

  • Straighten your knee on a bed and tighten your thigh muscles
  • Lift your legs off the bed by a few inches
  • Hold that position for 5 to 10 seconds
  • Lower your legs slowly
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times

Straight Leg Raises

  • Lie on your back and raise one leg at a time
  • Hold your leg in the air for 5 seconds
  • Do the exercise 10 times, three times in a day

Ankle Pumps

  • Lie on your back on your bed
  • Move your foot back and forth. Pull your toes toward your head and then point your toes down
  • Do the exercise with both ankles at the same time
  • Repeat 10 times every hour

Short-Arc Quads

  • Lie on your back and extend your legs
  • Put a pillow or rolled towel under the operated knee
  • Lift the heel of your operated leg off the bed
  • Hold for five seconds
  • Repeat 10 times, three times a day

How Does Physical Therapy Help with Pain and Stiffness after Knee Replacement Surgery? 

As mentioned earlier, knee replacement surgery aims to relieve pain and help you move without restrictions. However, your surgery involves an injury to your joint. The pain you feel after your surgery may make it difficult for you to move and carry out your routine activities. 

Fortunately, physical therapy can help. Your physical therapist will assess your condition and create a customized treatment plan to aid your healing and improve your movement. You will also get extra support to aid your recovery and prevent re-injury.

Physical therapists will also educate you on how to perform your daily activities seamlessly. You will also learn about the necessary lifestyle modifications to speed up your recovery.

Physical Therapy for Pain and Stiffness after Knee Replacement Surgery?

Physical therapy after your surgery is progressive. It is not a one-time treatment. Your physical therapist will create a treatment plan that addresses your pain at every stage of your recovery process. 

Immediately after Surgery

Physical therapy starts immediately after your knee replacement surgery. This treatment stage usually occurs in the hospital. Your physical therapist will help you sit up in bed and get out of bed. You will also start to walk and exercise your knees. These exercises are gentle and will help strengthen you. 

Your physical therapist may also ask you to squeeze your buttocks or pump your ankles. These exercises aim to stop blood from pooling in your body.

Week 1 - 2 Post-Surgery

Within the first week after your surgery, you should be able to get out of bed on your own. Your doctor will discharge you around this time, and you can continue your physical therapy treatment at home or in a clinic.

During this stage, your physical therapist will focus on treatment that improves your knee strength and mobility. You may carry out exercises like leg raises, ankle pumps, knee straightening, and walking.

The goal of this stage of Fort Worth physical therapy for knee pain is to ensure you can bend your knee to a degree of 90 at the end of the week.

Weeks 3 - 6 Post-Surgery

As your treatment progresses, you will gradually regain your strength and rely less on assistive devices like canes. Your physical therapist will also include low-impact activities in your treatment. For instance, you may swim, ride a stationary bike, and walk frequently.

The goal of your physical therapy program at this stage is to bend your knee to a degree of 120 degrees. At the end of the treatment, you should be able to do your household chores and daily activities. You may also be able to return to work if your job does not require climbing or heavy lifting. 

Weeks 7 - 12 Post-Surgery

These are the final weeks of your rehabilitation post-knee replacement. Your physical therapist will work with you to maximize your function at this stage. You will do more balance exercises and walk without an assistive device.

At this stage of your treatment, you should be able to return to your lower-impact daily activities. Your physical therapist will also recommend at-home exercises to strengthen your knee. It is important to follow the program for a full recovery.

You should also abstain from high-impact activities like football, running, and skiing.


Pain and stiffness after knee replacement surgery are normal. However, if this pain persists for a few weeks despite at-home treatments, you need to see your doctor. Your doctor will prescribe appropriate treatment, like physical therapy, to rehabilitate you and help you get used to your new knee.

Returning to your normal life after knee replacement surgery is a joy for us at Barkman & Smith Physical Therapy. If you are about to undergo or have undergone this surgery, we can help with rehabilitation. Our physical therapists are patient and ready to work with you to restore your function and mobility.