Facing normal post-op pain from major knee surgeries such as ACL repair, meniscus repair, and knee replacement can be intimidating.
But you can cut back on the pain and recovery time. Here are some tips to help you put your best foot – or in this case, your best knee – forward.
- Take care of the wound.
When in bed or sitting, elevate your leg to improve blood circulation. Also, follow the doctor’s instructions on keeping the wound clean and dry and apply ice packs or cold or heated compresses as directed.
- Stick to the rehab program.
Keeping up with the rehab plan laid out by your physical therapist or doctor is key.
The initial days following your knee surgery will probably involve a lot of rest. However, your therapist will likely emphasize that a little physical activity is much better than none. Shift positions in bed every hour or two. If needed, use a cane or crutches to walk around some. This will ensure blood circulates through the wounded area, speeding recovery and reducing the time you are in pain.
After the initial recovery phase, you will be cleared to exercise. That doesn’t mean it will be pain free. But low impact activities like swimming, stationary biking, and walking will strengthen your legs and promote faster healing.
- Avoid setbacks.
Your doctor and physical therapist will probably warn you about exerting yourself too hard following knee surgery. Lifting and moving heavy objects, heavy weightlifting, and too much exercise can reinjure your tender knee.
- Build a healthier lifestyle.
Rehabbing after surgery is a golden opportunity to form and reinforce good habits. Taking better care of yourself will contribute to faster healing.
- Eat better. Try to cut back on or eliminate poor eating habits. Extra body weight puts extra pressure on your knees.
- Stop drinking. Alcohol adds calories to your diet and can be dangerous when consumed with pain medications such as opioids and NSAIDs.
- Stop smoking. In addition to its well-known health hazards, smoking slows the healing process by shrinking blood vessels.
- Use medication.
Immediately after surgery, the anesthesiologist may inject a peripheral nerve block at the surgery site. This will numb the surgery site for to 24 hours.
After this wears off, you have options for pain relief.
Options range from over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to prescription opioids such as oxycodone. As opioids are addictive, they need to be taken for as short a duration as possible.
- Consult a pain management specialist.
Depending on your condition, health history, and preferences, a certified pain management specialist can help you choose treatments and medications.
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