Before the day of your procedure, it’s a good idea to think about a few things to make it much easier afterwards.
Set up your living space
Think about getting around your home using crutches – how easy is it to move around? Create more space between your couch and the coffee table. If you have a two story house, think about using a bed downstairs for the first week. You may need to move furniture around to accommodate your getting around. I have had several patients order wedges to keep their leg elevated. A foam wedge like this works perfectly:
Plan your meals ahead
Especially if you are the one who usually makes the meals, plan ahead. Freeze meals or at least have a good plan for how you are going to eat for the first week without having to work at it.
Have liquids ready to drink
Fill yourself pitcher of water and put it near your couch or bed. While getting out of bed or off the couch is, in a way, simple therapy, limit the number of times you absolutely need to get up for the first few days. Have your phone charger plugged in and perhaps your laptop nearby.
Medications for knee surgery
Typically, I will recommend the use of three medicines after surgery. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and a strong pain killer. Let’s go through each here:
Aspirin is used as a mild blood thinner to help decrease the risk of a blood clot. Check with me to be sure this is right for you before starting it. Typically I will recommend this for about 10 days after surgery. A baby aspirin (81mg) is strong enough. There are special circumstances when I will have another plan for you. We will discuss this at your preop appointment. Here are a few quick amazon links if you need it:
An anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen will help with pain and swelling following surgery. Again, please check with me to be sure this is appropriate for you. In most cases, this will start the afternoon after surgery and continue for about a week as a medication to take as directed. I will typically suggest a dose of 600mg (3 200mg tablets) three times a day (every 8 hours) with food.
A strong pain medication
I give all my patients, for the most part, a prescription for pain medication at the preoperative visit. Get anything you may need from the pharmacy ahead of time. Don’t wait until the day of surgery. This cannot be refilled by phone and requires a written script. If you need more, or a different medicine, please remember to request this during business hours so someone can come by and pick it up for you.
Simple ice packs, frozen peas, or other ice pack should be in the freezer for you. Have a couple so you can rotate them. Some people swear by their ‘ice machines’. There are several you can buy – unfortunately the day of insurance covering these is over. To make it easy, you can get this ice pack here:
The ‘cadillac’ of ice machines is a device that recirculates ice cold water over your knee. BE CAREFUL with these: they can freeze your skin. Use with caution, but when used appropriately, are highly effective.
REMEMBER with these cold packs, NEVER put them directly on your skin. ALWAYS use a washcloth between your skin and the pad as they get REALLY COLD and can cause frostbite ! BE CAREFUL!!
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For most knee procedures, I always recommend that crutches are used for a week, and depending on what your surgery will be, may require you to use them for up to 6 weeks. I have a lot of patients that tell me they have found a few additions to their crutches to make them more usable. I’ve listed them here for information only. Click on the picture to learn more:
After your surgery, we will change the dressings when we see you back in the office and often replace any tape strips on your skin. These help to hold the wound together. Many a plastic surgeon has suggested to me to keep these on for up to 6 weeks to keep the incision as small and thin as possible. Sometimes skin around the knee will stretch and leave a wide scar. Keeping the stern strips on should help reduce the chance of this. These are the ones we use in the office (click to learn more):
Knee Range of Motion Brace
I use knee range of motion braces for a variety of procedures. These are used to protect your knee as it recovers. Ask me if you need this. Some insurances pay for these and some do not. If not, getting it through Amazon may save your money. Patients undergoing an ACL reconstruction, for example, need one. This one here is one I tell patients to buy, is adjustable for almost any size leg and is cooler that some with thick wide pads:
Getting time of work
An important part of recovery after knee surgery is giving yourself time to heal. In most cases, this will mean you will need to take some time off of work or school for at least a couple days, potentially longer. The time off work needed will be different for each person, but as a general guideline, depends on the kind of surgery you had. I would use the following is a general guideline.
Knee arthroscopy: plan for 3 to 4 days off of school if you are a student, about a week if you work at a desk job, and potentially 4 to 6 weeks if you do a lot of physically demanding work.
ACL reconstruction: it is best to take a week off of school as a student, about two weeks off if you work at a desk job, and up to 12 weeks off if your job is physically demanding.
Typically, we will talk about this at the preoperative visit. I think it’s important for you to have a good idea upfront. Everyone is different, remember, and there is not one perfect answer for everybody but use these above suggestions as general guidelines.