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Knee replacement surgery and recovery: Some reflections after week 1

Day 1 Surgery

Surgery was Monday, August 29th. It was supposed to be day surgery but my blood pressure wasn’t fond of the spinal so I kept flunking the physio exam to leave hospital. Each time I stood up my blood pressure sank drastically and I had to sit back down. That was frustrating, especially since the surgery itself went well, but I was happy to see they were obviously okay keeping you if you’re not well enough to leave. Yes, here in Ontario our hospitals are stressed but I felt very well cared for. The nurses and physios and the whole surgical team were lovely.

Day 2 Home!

Tuesday’s big adventure was making it from London to Guelph. Getting in and out of the car was the biggest challenge. I was happy to be home and settled into our ground floor back room with the fold out sofa. Usually it’s our Zwifting studio but no one is Zwifting right now. We have a main floor washroom and so I was saved the need to handle the stairs with crutches until I was a little bit more stable. For the first few days I relied upon a walker.

Day 3 My walker

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Also on day 6 I made it upstairs and slept in my own bed. Bonus!

Day 7

OMG Sarah installed a new handheld shower attachment and I successfully showered. The world is a better place today.


Surgical staples get removed and I have a follow up visit with the surgeon on the 15th. That’s the point at which I can ask about getting back on the bike on the trainer and maybe getting back to the gym for some gentle workouts.

Here are some of my thoughts so far about the recovery process:

It helps to have a team. Between keeping track of all the medication–pain drugs yes but also antibiotics and blood thinners and anti inflammatory drugs–and running out for ice for the ice machine, it’s a lot. Thanks Sarah, thanks mum, thanks Jeff. I can’t imagine going through this alone.

Functional fitness matters. I only needed the walker for the first couple of days and I’m pretty stable on my feet now even without the crutches. I’m using them for walking to help the joint but I feel pretty strong. The new knee is “weight bearing as tolerated” as they say. It helps too that I’ve got some upper body strength and reasonable mobility. All of a sudden when you’re trying to lower yourself into the toilet seat with one leg doing all the work and the other sticking out because it doesn’t yet bend, pistol squats start to make sense. We bought one of the raised toilet seats with handles but I really only needed it for the first couple of days. It’s packed away now.

Pain management is a thing. Part of me worries about pain meds and addiction. I also like feeling like myself. But knee surgery isn’t a time to try to soldier through. You need to keep moving and do the physio and to do that you need to keep the pain under control. There’s always some pain but I’ve been told to try not to let it get too far above 5/10. I’ve been using the heavy duty pain meds at night for sleep and before and after physio.

Physio, physio, physio. Recovery from knee surgery is a full-time job. I’m off work for at least six weeks and part of me wondered why. I could work from home and make my meetings virtual meetings. One reason is of course pain medication and judgement. There’s also time constraints. If you’re doing physio two to three times a day and you need to prepare for physio and recover after, there isn’t a lot of time to do other things.

This is also going to take a lot of patience. It’s tough work and I know it can feel like slow going. Wish me luck!

Good leg good to heaven, bad leg goes to hell. Crutches advice for the stairs.

Happy to answer any questions anyone has about my surgery experience. Ask away!

9 thoughts on “Knee replacement surgery and recovery: Some reflections after week 1

  1. I’m glad you are taking seriously the need for pain control. There is research that shows improved recovery with good pain control. Gritting one’s teeth and toughing it out doesn’t actually work. And doing the rehab is essential to getting that new knee to work and work for years to come. The surgeon’s job is done…now comes the hard part. Hang in there! You’re doing great!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience, Sam! As a just south of 50 year old woman who is trying to remain active at Taekwondo in spite of bad knees, I fret a lot about the knee replacement boogie man. I know that it is in my future, but how do you decide when things are ‘bad enough’ to take the plunge? Any regrets? I’d love to hear more about your journey as you heal and return to more of your normal daily activities. Take care!

    1. We’ll see about regrets but for me my sports medicine doctor who I trusted said it was definitely time. There were no more tricks in his book. I’d done physio and knee braces and injections. For me, the knee was just ceasing to work. In the end I could ride my bike forever but walking to get lunch on campus was a challenge. I started waiting in the car while my partner got groceries. I just walked the dog for short walks. Along the way I’d given up running and soccer and martial arts. Now canoe camping was a challenge because of portages. Also sleeping through the night without knee pain. So I was pretty clear it was time.

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