Top 5 Mistakes after Knee Replacement From a Certified Physical Therapist

Undergoing knee replacement surgery is a significant step toward regaining mobility and reducing pain. However, being aware of common mistakes that can hinder your recovery is essential. In this article, we will discuss the top 5 mistakes after knee replacement surgery to avoid from the perspective of certified physical therapist Chris Marino.

Pain Medication Timing: Taking Too Much or Stopping Too Soon

One common mistake many individuals make is mismanaging their pain medication. While managing pain after knee replacement surgery is crucial, it is equally important to follow the prescribed dosage and timing. Taking more medication than prescribed can lead to dependency and potential complications. As patients begin physical therapy after knee replacement surgery, they feel they will endure enhanced soreness or pain from movement, so they take their medication right before therapy, even if they are not having any pain at that time. This can limit a patient’s ability to participate in therapy. Patients should not be fearful of the pain, but speak with their physical therapist and provider about their concerns of increasing pain with therapy, and the exercises can be adapted to fit the patient’s capabilities.

On the other hand, abruptly stopping pain medication can cause unnecessary discomfort and hinder your ability to engage in rehabilitation exercises. Communicating with your health-care provider and following their instructions regarding pain medication is essential.

Icing: Proper Timing and Duration

Icing your knee is an effective way to reduce swelling and manage postoperative pain. However, it is crucial to understand the correct timing and duration for icing. Some patients make the mistake of only icing when it hurts rather than following a scheduled routine. Other patients think it is necessary to ice 24 hours a day.

In reality, patients should ice their knees in bouts of 20 to 30 minutes with at least an hour-long break in between sessions. Icing is meant to decrease inflammation; however, if a patient ices their knee for too long, it can damage the surface tissue, along with increasing bloodflow to the joint, causing an increase in swelling.

Giving Up Assistive Devices Too Quickly

Regaining independence after knee replacement surgery is a priority for many patients. However, prematurely abandoning assistive devices, such as crutches or walkers, can lead to compensatory patterns and improper gait mechanics. It is crucial to focus on normalizing your gait before eliminating these devices. Patients who rush their recovery and ditch their assistive devices too soon may hinder their recovery because they have yet to fully develop proper strength in their legs.

Generally, patients should be able to focus on normalizing their walking mechanics, also known as their gait. Focusing on gaining full hip extension, knee extension, and ankle mobility will improve your ability to use your leg properly, and reduce the feeling of instability with standing and walking.

Rushing Back To Work and Driving

Returning to work and driving is a significant milestone for many recovering from knee replacement surgery. However, it is essential to consider the physical demands of your job and allow sufficient time for your knee to heal and rehabilitate. It is advisable to discuss a suitable timeline for returning to work with your health-care team, considering your specific job requirements and your recovery status. Typically, patients wondering how long to recover from knee replacement surgery should wait four to six weeks before returning to work full-time.

Less Is More: Prioritizing Fluid Mobility and AROM Exercises

While pushing yourself to regain strength immediately after surgery may be tempting, focusing on improving fluid mobility and range of motion with physical therapy is essential first. Many patients need to pay more attention to exercises to reduce swelling and increase joint mobility. Performing gentle active range of motion (AROM) knee replacement exercises and isometrics can significantly contribute to your recovery. By reducing swelling and increasing joint mobility, you pave the way for regaining strength in the long run.


Avoiding these common mistakes can help you maximize the benefits of knee replacement surgery and ensure a smoother recovery process. By following the recommended medication regimen, adhering to proper icing techniques, gradually transitioning away from assistive devices, allowing ample recovery before returning to work, and focusing on fluid mobility and AROM exercises, you can enhance your knee replacement recovery time. Consult your health-care provider or physical therapist for personalized guidance throughout your recovery journey.

We Are Here To Help

Set up a visit at one of our locations today.

Join our Mailing List

TCO provides patients with orthopedic problems the trusted resources and patient-centered advice they need to Feel Better. Move Better. Be Better.