Elderly Knee Replacement Recovery: Stages, Tips, and FAQs

Knee replacement surgery greatly aids seniors to get rid of pain and stiffness. Learn more about aftercare and knee replacement recovery time for elderly here.

Are you an older adult who wishes to get knee replacement surgery? Or do you know an elderly who wants to avail of the treatment?

You might have things to consider before going through such a medical procedure, including aftercare and recovery.

Aftercare is as important as the actual surgery to achieve good results. How you take care of your new joint greatly impacts recovery.

Learn about knee replacement recovery time for the elderly and surgical aftercare to achieve great results. Also, find out if it’s the best option for you or your loved one.

Knee Replacement for the Elderly: Complete Overview

Knee Replacement for the Elderly

Knee replacement surgery gained notable attention in medicine, especially among athletes. It’s significantly helpful in repairing the knees to restore function.

But, it’s not only best fitting for individuals engaging in intense physical activities. It also works WONDERS in improving seniors’ quality of life. 

A person’s physical capacities reduce with age. Even with minimal activities, older adults are prone to getting tears and injuries. 

Health conditions that limit their movements and cause severe pain, like knee osteoarthritis, may also develop. 

What Does Knee Replacement Surgery for the Elderly Involve?

A doctor will perform evaluations to determine if the elderly can undergo knee replacement surgery. Once approved, they should prepare for surgery.

Pre-operation, it’s important that their risk of falling is reduced to avoid complications. You must also prepare an ice pack to relieve pain and swelling after surgery.

The procedure replaces the entire knee with an artificial joint usually made of alloys, high-grade plastics, and polymers.

The surgeon will first give you general or epidural anesthesia to numb your lower extremities. This way, you won’t feel pain while the medical team operates.

How Long of a Recovery for Knee Replacement?

After surgery, expect to undergo physical therapy to help your new knee recover. 

You might stay for a couple of days in the hospital for observation. But, once discharged, you must take care of your knee by following the advice of your doctor and physical therapist.

Knee replacement recovery time could take up to 12 weeks. After postoperative recovery, visiting your doctor is still necessary for follow-up care.

There are several activities and treatments you can do within your recovery timeline. You must gradually increase your activities time after time.

Here is the detailed timeline that you can expect:

Day 1

Your rehabilitation starts when you wake up after a knee joint replacement surgery. It would be best to get a lot of rest and start walking short distances.

Early rehabilitation is important to AVOID complications like developing an infection and blood clots. 

You are encouraged to stand up and mobilize your leg 24 hours after the procedure with crutches or walkers.

Day 2

At this point, you can already walk for short periods while still using an assistive device. You can sit, stand, and move from one place to another.

You might also be allowed to take a shower if the doctor used a waterproof bandage. If not, you need to wait for five to seven days.

Weeks 1 to 3

When you no longer need assistance in doing simple tasks, the doctor may discharge you from the hospital.

Typically, you’ll need to stay for three days. But, this depends on the physical therapy you need and how you progressed after the surgery.

You may continue your therapy at home or in a rehabilitation facility. Your physical therapist may require you to do certain exercises to improve mobility and aid your recovery.

Weeks 4 to 6

By this time, you’ll notice the swelling subside, especially if you follow your exercise routine religiously.

Your knee strength increases, and you can bend them even more. Doing activities of daily living would also feel lighter and easier.

Your physical therapy plan might tell you to go on long walks without an assistive device.

Weeks 7 to 12

At this period, you can already start doing low-impact activities. Exercises you perform are increased and may include:

  • Cycling on a stationary bike
  • Toe and heel raises
  • Mini squats
  • Leg balances
  • Step-ups

You must continue physical therapy together with these activities to improve your strength and endurance.

NOTE: Do not engage in intense activities. This will damage your knee and its surrounding tissues.

Weeks 13 and beyond

You may feel less pain at 13 weeks than when you were at the hospital. Your performance also improves gradually.

Doing high-impact activities is already possible once your doctor agrees. But, it might need a longer recovery time (6 months) to achieve total healing.

Once recovered, you have a 90 to 95 percent chance of retaining your knee for ten years, while an 80 to 85 percent chance of maintaining the knee for 20 years.

Like many patients, you can enjoy its benefits for a long time.

How Long Do You Need a Caregiver After Knee Replacement Surgery?

You might need a caregiver to assist you in daily activities until you can do them independently without any assistive device.

But, usually, most patients can return to doing most daily activities after three months.

How Long Does It Take to Walk Normally After Knee Replacement?

At four to six weeks after surgery, you are encouraged to walk without any assistive device.

By this time, you have more strength to move and bend your legs. Its rotation will also increase by a few degrees allowing for increased mobility.

Knee Replacement Benefits for the Elderly

Knee Replacement Benefits for the Elderly

Knee arthritis is one of the leading causes of decreased mobility in nearly half of American adults. Hence, they’re finding ways to alleviate symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Luckily, advancements in medicine allowed for treatments like knee replacement.

Knee replacements are great for treating physical conditions that limit the mobility of seniors. With surgery, you’ll be able to reap plenty of benefits, such as:

  • Reduced joint pain
  • Better joint motion and rotation
  • Improved stability

Knee Replacement Risks for the Elderly

Many seniors worry about the risk accompanied by the procedure. Fortunately, the risks associated with knee replacement are RARE and MINIMAL, including:

  • Postoperative pain
  • Immobility or loss of motion
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Life-threatening conditions (e.g., heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, etc.)
  • Failure of implants due to wear and tear

Tips to Recover Faster From Knee Surgery

The knee replacement recovery time for the elderly can range between 6 to 12 months before they can do demanding physical activities. 

The recovery period can be quite long. But, there are things you can do after the operation to speed up the healing process:

  • Pain Management – Pain and discomfort are common tradeoffs when you undergo surgery. However, these can be manageable by taking the right type and dosage of medication. It’s VITAL to describe the pain accurately to your healthcare team. This way, they can recommend the most effective treatments.
  • Walking – Health professionals encourage early mobilization for many patients. Others walk 24 hours after surgery with the help of walkers. This prevents the development of blood clots and improves blood circulation in your knee joint, and aids the recovery timeline. 
  • Physical Therapy – Physical therapy is vital in helping you heal. Your therapist will provide exercises to strengthen your joints FAST and achieve functional outcomes after the operation. 
  • Exercise – Maintaining an active lifestyle after a total knee replacement surgery is key to a speedy recovery process. It’s also helpful in keeping your muscles and joints strong. (NOTE: Do exercises and activities approved by your therapist and surgeon.
  • Rest – Rest is as important as early mobilization, especially during the first few months after surgery. Expect that you are still limited to doing physical activities until you fully heal. Applying an ice pack and keeping your leg elevated can help you recover fast. 

Options and Alternatives to Total Knee Replacement Surgery for the Elderly

If you think surgery is not the best option, there are other ways to address pain and stiffness, including:

  • Steroid injections 
  • Low-impact exercises (e.g., tai-chi and yoga)
  • Medication
  • Physical therapy

Frequently Asked Questions

Knee arthroplasty can significantly improve the physical capacities of seniors with their new joint. You might already consider such a procedure for you or your elderly friend. 

We’ll answer common questions to help you decide if you want to push through:

Is 80 Too Old for Knee Replacement Surgery?

There are no age limits when it comes to total knee arthroplasty. A study showed that the procedure could improve quality of life, even among seniors aged 85.

How Painful Is a Total Knee Replacement?

The surgery is considered to be more painful than hip replacement. However, you’ll be given nerve or spinal blockers before the operation to control the pain. 

Physical therapy can also help reduce the pain during the healing process. 

What Can’t You Do After Knee Replacement?

You might not perform high-impact activities a few months after the procedure. You must wait for the new joint to fully heal.

It’s part of the process if you want a joint that won’t wear out for up to 20 years.

Can You Climb Stairs After Knee Replacement?

Yes, you can climb stairs after the surgery WITH crutches until you fully heal.


Knee replacement can truly improve the lives of most people.

Although there are risks accompanying the surgery, these are only minimal and are totally manageable. You may also speed up healing by doing the tips we provided above. Ultimately, the procedure is proven safe and effective for seniors. It’s a great option to relieve discomfort and pain and increase your physical capacities.