How to Prepare for Knee Replacement Surgery

Imagine being able to walk, swim, bike, or golf without debilitating knee pain, all thanks to a successful knee replacement surgery. But how can you ensure the best possible outcome for your surgery? The answer lies in adequate preparation.

In this post, I will walk you through the essential steps on how to prepare for knee replacement surgery, from physical and mental preparation to medical evaluations, home modifications, and post-surgery care.

Key Takeaways

  • Physical and mental preparation is essential for successful knee surgery.
  • Pre-surgery exercises, weight loss & dietary considerations, stress management and support systems are important steps to take before the procedure.
  • Postoperative care including physical therapy, pain management & medication adjustments can help ensure a comfortable recovery.

Physical and Mental Preparation for Knee Surgery

Physical and mental preparation for knee surgery is of paramount significance. Strengthening your body and mind paves the way for a successful surgery and recovery. Engaging in pre-surgery exercises, shedding excess weight, and managing stress are essential steps to optimize your overall health before the big day.

Prehabilitation, or pre-surgical physical therapy, is designed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the surgical leg, specifically the knee. This not only speeds up recovery time but also enhances your ability to return to low-impact activities like:

  • walking
  • swimming
  • golfing
  • biking

After undergoing replacement surgery, it is essential to follow the doctor’s advice and take proper care during the recovery period following your surgery date.

Pre-Surgery Exercises

Focusing on upper body and low-impact activities prior to your knee surgery aids in enhancing your recovery process. Consult with your orthopedic surgeon about recommended exercises such as yoga, biking, and swimming. Beneficial pre-surgery exercises for knee surgery encompass thigh squeezes (quadriceps sets), heel slides, side-lying straight leg raises, and ankle pumps. These exercises not only strengthen the muscles around the knee but also enhance flexibility.

Upper body strengthening exercises, however, are integral in maintaining muscle tone and preventing muscle atrophy in the upper body during the recovery period. These exercises can also enhance cardiovascular fitness, increase blood flow, and encourage healing throughout the body, including at the incision site.

Weight Loss and Dietary Considerations

Weight loss and a healthy diet can significantly influence your recovery time after knee surgery. Excessive weight may lead to poorer functional outcomes and increase the likelihood of complications and revision surgery. For weight loss, consider prioritizing a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats, fish, and poultry. Incorporating calcium-rich foods such as spinach, chia seeds, kale, and dairy products can also benefit your overall health.

Apart from weight loss, adhering to specific dietary recommendations can enhance your recovery. Here are some essential aspects of a healthy diet that promotes healing:

  • Consuming foods high in calcium
  • Increasing omega-3 intake
  • Incorporating protein-rich foods
  • Avoiding high-fat foods
  • Limiting vitamin K intake
  • Reducing sugar consumption

Stress Management and Support Systems

A strong support system can help you cope with the challenges associated with surgery and recovery. Here are some ways to build a support system:

  • Have a family member or someone you trust to assist you with exercises
  • Provide emotional support
  • Help with daily tasks
  • Preparing meals in advance and having pre-prepared foods on hand can also lighten the burden on caregivers.

If you lack assistance after surgery, do not hesitate to notify the hospital so that a discharge planning nurse can evaluate potential solutions. Remember, stress management and a solid support system go hand in hand, enabling you to face the challenges of knee surgery with confidence and resilience.

Medical Evaluations and Medication Adjustments

Before undergoing knee surgery, it is important to complete the following steps:

  1. Complete medical evaluations and make any necessary medication adjustments.
  2. Undergo a pre-operative evaluation, including a comprehensive physical examination, laboratory tests, and diagnostics.
  3. Ensure that you are in the best possible health for the procedure.
  4. Have blood tests and a medical history review to identify any potential issues or risks that could affect the surgery.

By following these steps, you can ensure that you are well-prepared for your knee surgery, including knee replacement surgery.

A comprehensive understanding of your medical history allows your surgeon to make informed decisions and take necessary precautions for a safe and successful surgery. Adjusting medications before surgery can prevent negative interactions and improve recovery.

Dental Evaluation

A dental evaluation before knee surgery is helpful to prevent infections that could complicate the procedure. Poor dental health and infections of the gums or teeth can lead to complications during surgery, as bacteria from dental infections can enter the bloodstream and contaminate the surgical site.

To minimize dental complications, obtain a dental examination and clearance from a dentist before undergoing knee surgery. By addressing any dental issues such as gingivitis or periodontal disease, you can reduce the risk of infection and ensure a smoother recovery.

Blood Tests and Medical History Review

Blood tests are necessary before knee surgery to:

  • Evaluate your overall health and potential blood clots risk
  • Detect potential medical conditions that might interfere with the surgery or healing process
  • Assess blood cell counts
  • Evaluate kidney and liver function
  • Measure blood sugar levels
  • Check inflammation markers

Through these tests, healthcare providers can guarantee the safety and success of the surgery.

A comprehensive medical history review is vital to assess your overall health and identify any pre-existing conditions or risk factors that could potentially affect the surgery or recovery process. This information assists your primary care doctor and the medical team in determining the most suitable surgical approach, anesthesia options, and post-operative care plan for you. It may also include consultations with other specialists, such as cardiologists or pulmonologists, to ensure that any underlying health issues are adequately managed before the surgery.

Medication Adjustments

It may be necessary to adjust certain medications before knee surgery to prevent possible adverse interactions and enhance postoperative recovery. These medications might include:

  • Muscle relaxants like Methocarbamol and Cyclobenzaprine
  • Immunosuppressive medications like anafrolumab and voclosporin
  • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs

Failure to adjust medications before knee surgery may result in an increased risk of surgical site infection, particularly for those with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. It is essential to take into account the use of immunosuppressing medications and their potential influence on the surgical outcome.

Moreover, taking certain medications before surgery can have detrimental effects and lead to severe complications.

Home and Lifestyle Modifications

Modifying your home and lifestyle can significantly enhance your recovery experience after knee surgery. Making your living space safer and more accessible helps prevent accidents and eases daily tasks during the recovery period. Additionally, adopting lifestyle changes such as engaging in low-impact exercises and following activity recommendations can promote long-term success after knee surgery.

Assistive equipment and devices can support mobility and independence during recovery. Outpatient physical therapy can improve mobility, strength, and overall function after knee surgery, ensuring that you can return to an active life.

Home Safety and Accessibility

Safety should be prioritized when preparing your home for post-surgery recovery. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Install handrails on stairways and grab bars in bathrooms for support.
  • Use raised toilet seats to make it easier to sit and stand.
  • Avoid carrying heavy objects to prevent strain and injury.
  • Modify sleeping arrangements, such as utilizing a recliner chair or hospital bed, or sleeping with additional pillows for support.

These measures can prevent accidents and make daily tasks easier during the recovery period, contributing to a more comfortable recovery.

To ensure that bathrooms are more accessible following surgery, consider:

  • Installing handrails on stairways
  • Installing grab bars in bathrooms for support
  • Using raised toilet seats
  • Securing crutches, walkers, canes, and other assistive devices for mobility and independence.

Assistive Equipment and Devices

Utilizing assistive devices such as:

  • seated knee scooters
  • manual wheelchairs
  • mobility scooters
  • power wheelchairs
  • crutches

can significantly improve your mobility and independence during the initial recovery stages. Walkers, for example, can provide stability and support while walking, reducing weight-bearing on the affected leg and allowing for a more comfortable and secure walking experience.

A cane, on the other hand, can provide support, balance, and stability during mobility following knee surgery. Shower chairs may also be beneficial during recovery, offering comfort and stability while showering and reducing the strain on the knee.

Lifestyle Changes and Activity Recommendations

Embracing lifestyle changes and following activity recommendations after knee surgery can help ensure lasting success. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Resuming a balanced diet
  • Engaging in light physical activities like walking around regularly and alternating positions
  • Incorporating low-impact exercises such as swimming

These practices can maintain fitness and promote joint mobility.

Following knee surgery, it is advised to abstain from high-impact activities such as running, jumping, and contact sports. Instead, concentrate on low-impact exercises like cycling, calisthenics, swimming, and walking. By adopting these lifestyle changes, you can improve your overall health and enjoy an active life post-surgery.

Hospital Preparation and Surgery Day

Preparing for your hospital stay and surgery day involves packing essentials such as:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Nightgown
  • Pajamas
  • Robe
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Slippers
  • Shoes
  • A shower sponge with a long handle
  • A shoehorn with a long handle
  • A cane, crutches, or a walker

On the day of the surgery, following pre-surgery instructions, such as fasting and making adjustments to medications, is critical.

Packing Essentials

Packing essentials for your hospital stay ensures that you have everything you need for a comfortable and convenient recovery. Bring toiletries such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, soap, shampoo, and feminine hygiene products. Also, pack clothing for 1-3 days, including comfortable and loose-fitting clothing such as sweatpants, loose shirts, and shorts.

Slippers and wide shoes may be useful for comfort, along with shirts or blouses with buttons in the front for easier dressing. By having all your essentials ready, you can focus on healing and getting back on your feet as soon as possible.

Pre-Surgery Instructions

Following pre-surgery instructions is vital for a smooth surgery and preventing complications. Refrain from consuming any food or beverage after midnight on the day of your surgery. Rest adequately and retire for the night at an earlier hour to ensure you are well-rested for the procedure.

Before surgery, make any necessary adjustments to medications, such as avoiding certain medications like blood thinners that can heighten the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia. By adhering to these instructions, you can minimize the risk of complications and set the stage for a successful surgery and recovery.

Post-Surgery Care and Physical Therapy

Post-surgery care and physical therapy are key to successful recovery and long-term maintenance after knee surgery. Pain management, medication, and outpatient physical therapy can help you cope with discomfort, improve mobility, strength, and overall function during the recovery process.

Regular check-ups and proper care are indispensable for ideal results, ensuring that you can return to an active life. Attending follow-up appointments and therapy sessions as scheduled allows you to monitor your progress and address any potential complications or concerns.

Pain Management and Medication

Effectively managing pain after knee surgery is key to a comfortable recovery. Pain medications such as muscle relaxants, opioids, and over-the-counter products like Tylenol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be effective in managing post-surgery pain.

Consultation with your healthcare provider to determine the most suitable pain management approach for your individual situation is imperative. By taking pain medication as prescribed and monitoring their effects, you can ensure that your recovery is as comfortable and pain-free as possible.

Outpatient Physical Therapy

Outpatient physical therapy is key in your recovery after knee surgery, as it helps you regain mobility and strength. Typically, physical therapy begins immediately after surgery and continues for 4 to 8 weeks. The exercises are designed to:

  • Enhance range of motion
  • Augment muscle strength
  • Restore customary movement in the joint
  • Manage discomfort
  • Reduce inflammation

Consult with your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist to develop a tailored therapy plan that addresses your unique needs and goals. By following their guidance and performing the prescribed exercises, you can greatly improve your overall function and mobility after knee surgery.

Long-Term Care and Maintenance

Long-term care and maintenance are necessary to ensure the lasting success of your knee surgery, including your total knee replacement. Regular check-ups, adhering to activity recommendations, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help preserve the function of your prosthetic knee and prolong its lifespan up to 15 to 20 years.

It is important to attend all follow-up appointments and therapy sessions as scheduled, as well as engage in low-impact exercises and activities to maintain fitness and promote joint mobility. By prioritizing long-term care and maintenance, you can ensure a successful recovery and an active life after knee surgery.


In conclusion, preparing for knee replacement surgery involves physical and mental preparation, medical evaluations, home and lifestyle modifications, and post-surgery care. By following this comprehensive guide and working closely with your healthcare team, you can set the stage for a successful surgery and recovery, paving the way for a more active and pain-free life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you do prior to knee replacement surgery?

Prior to knee replacement surgery, you should complete muscle-strengthening exercises, such as ankle pumps and circles, thigh squeezes, heel slides, leg slides, lying kicks, straight leg raises, bed mobility exercise, and chair pushups. Additionally, you should make your home safer and more comfortable, as well as fulfill any required or suggested medical preparations.

What are the hardest days after total knee replacement?

The first two to three weeks post-op is generally the hardest after total knee replacement, due to pain and lack of strength or balance. Moving around is difficult and patients must use a walker to support themselves.

What is the fastest way to recover from a knee replacement?

Follow your surgeon’s recommendations, walk frequently, eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep, and do physical and occupational therapy exercises to help speed up your recovery from knee surgery.

How long does a knee replacement surgery take?

Knee replacement surgery typically takes 1-3 hours, depending on the type of procedure being performed. During the surgery, your surgeon will make a cut in your knee to access the knee joint, after which they will carefully cut away any damaged bone. After the procedure, you will usually be able to start rehabilitation the same day.

What types of exercises should I focus on before my knee surgery?

Focus on low-impact activities such as yoga, biking, and swimming, as well as exercises that target the upper body and knee to strengthen muscles.

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Orthopedic Surgeon Modesto CA Dr. Eric Giang

Dr. Eric Giang, DO

Dr. Giang is a leading fellowship-trained shoulder surgeon in Modesto, CA. As a trusted orthopedic surgeon, he is serving the Modesto community with a commitment to enhancing the quality of life for every patient.

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