Best Icing Methods After Surgery
Crushed Ice in a Bag
An easy-to-make go-to is to take about 1-2 cups of crushed, shaved ice or ice cubes and put it into a ziplock bag. You can add saran wrap to around the bag to keep the ice block more dense, therefore making it last longer.
This method of icing works perfectly well for 20 minutes on but the ice will melt faster.
Foam Cups/ Pucks
Rather than filling up an endless supply of ice cube trays and whipping through them, we suggest making larger, cups with ice. These will last much longer and have a larger surface area to ice your joint.
To make, simply buy foam drinking cups from your local grocer, dollar store, or order online. All sizes work, but we recommend going with the 10-12 oz size.
Instant Ice Packs
Instant ice packs are great for on-the-go when youre further along in your recovery and more mobile. If youre heading to appointments, out to run errands, or are in the car for a prolonged period, dry instant ice packs are perfect. Instant ice packs do not have to be frozen or refrigerated. Simply, squeeze the center of the pack and it will instantly get ice cold. These packs last a couple of hours.
Find these instant cold packs at your pharmacy or order online.
Ice Therapy Machine
Naively Trusting Your Recovery To Rehab Professionals
This is the toughest one for people to understand. The medical model is focused on you being treated by rehabilitation professionals on an intermittent basis.
This frequency is by necessity low because it is costly. At most you will be seen twice a day in a rehab facility, daily to start with in home care and then usually 2-3 times per week for further home care and then in outpatient therapy.
The problem is that you will have the most success and get well the quickest if you perform your knee replacement recovery exercises 4x a day. What you really need to get into your head is that you are responsible for your success and refuse to adopt the traditional knee replacement rehab timetable which will ultimately slow down your progress.
How Do I Manage Pain And Discomfort After Joint Replacement Surgery
Try to take your pain medication as soon as you begin to feel pain. Don’t wait until the pain becomes severe. Follow the instructions on the prescription label. Remember to take your pain medication before activity and bedtime.
If you need to have stitches or staples removed and you’re still taking pain medications, be sure to have a friend or family member drive you to your appointment.
Pain medication may cause nausea. If this happens, decrease the amount you are taking or stop and contact your surgeons office.
If you need additional pain medication, please contact your surgeons office. Give at least a few days advance notice before you run out of the medication. Please plan ahead, especially for holiday weekends.
- You aren’t permitted to drive a car while taking narcotic pain medication.
- It may take several days to have a bowel movement. Anesthesia and pain medication often cause constipation. Drink plenty of fluids and eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. A stool softener or laxative can help bowel function return to normal.
- Don’t hesitate to call your surgeons office with any questions or concerns.
Walker, crutches, cane
Use your assistive devices for balance as instructed by your surgeon or therapist. By your first post-op visit with your surgeon, you may have already improved and changed from using a walker or crutches to a cane .
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Myth Buster #3 Icing Improves Healing
Since the healing response is autoregulated by the bodys immune system, changes in superficial skin temperature have not been shown to significantly affect healing times. The best-known evidence of healing tissue following surgery includes a short episode of rest followed by an active recovery guided by a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or other qualified healthcare professional.
Dos And Donts After Knee Surgery
After knee surgery, youll likely encounter challenges and pain on your path to recovery. While it may seem difficult, remember that what happens after your surgery is just as important as the surgery itself.
Here are some dos and donts to help you recover:
If you experience problems during recovery, call your doctor immediately for proper healing and to prevent further health issues.
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How Will I Feel The First Few Days Back From Joint Replacement Surgery
No matter how much you prepared for your homecoming, it will be an adjustment. You will likely experience anxiety and question whether you were discharged too early. This is a normal feeling, so relax and focus on your recovery.
Depending on your surgeon’s policy, you may get a call from a care coordinator. This is your opportunity to report any problems and ask any questions. You may also get a visit from the physical therapist or occupational therapist within 48 hours of discharge. Your provider will let you know what to expect and the timelines involved.
What Should I Expect During Weeks 6 Through 12
This period after joint replacement is a time of continued improvement. You will probably notice an increase in energy, a desire to do more activities, and a noticeable improvement in your new joint. Please keep in mind that every patient is different and will improve at different pace. If you are not happy with the pace of your recovery, please contact your surgeons office to discuss your concerns.
After your six-week follow-up visit, you will likely start using a cane to walk and move about. Use the cane until you return for your 12-week follow-up visit. Walk with the cane as much as you want as long as you are comfortable.
Back to work
Many patients return to work after the six-week follow-up visit. Tips to remember for returning to work include:
- Avoid heavy lifting after you return to work.
- Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time.
- Avoid activities such as frequently climbing stairs or climbing ladders.
- Avoid kneeling, stooping, bending forward or any position that puts the new joint under extreme strain.
- Expect a period of adjustment. Most people return to work with few problems. However, you may find the first several days very tiring. Give yourself time to adjust to work again and gradually this should improve.
Continue exercise program
Comply with all Restrictions
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What Happens If You Dont Do Physical Therapy After Knee Surgery
Why you shouldnt skip physical therapy after knee surgery Supporting muscles and soft tissue can begin to atrophy due to nonuse and swelling. Increased strain can be put on the knee from improper movement. Range of motion can be diminished. The healing process can be slowed down due to lack of blood flow to the area.
Pillow Placement After Tkr
In the photo you can see how Ive positioned my pillows. Sure, you can simply use the wedge pillow and thats it, but as youll learn in the video below, adding 1 or 2 pillows on top of the wedge pillow can help keep the leg straight.
Keeping the leg straight when elevated improves circulation. Its also more comfortable to keep straight right after surgery when the wound is still healing.
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Do Your Knee Exercise Regularly
What you achieve in the first two weeks post surgery in terms of knee bend will determine the range of movement youll have in your knee in the long term. So exercising regularly immediately post surgery is really important. Your surgeon will tell you what degree of knee bend you should aim for.
You will also need to aim for a 0 degree extension to get a straight leg. Your physio or surgeon will explain what this means and looks like. Achieving this can be tough, particularly if your leg wasnt straight before surgery. It can take up to 12+ weeks, but your physio will help you by stretching your leg, using weights & massage therapy.
To see any real benefit, youll need to do your knee exercises regularly. That means every day and ideally more than once a day even when you dont feel like doing them, which will be most of the time. Youll probably get to point when you plateau in terms of your progress and find it hard to stay motivated and stay committed to doing the knee exercises regularly after that. Even though youll be tempted, try not to give up. Try and visualise what you want to be doing in three/six months when your knee is fully functional and youre free from pain.
Pain Medications After Knee Replacement Surgery
If a nerve block was used during knee replacement surgery, it may wear off shortly after being discharged. This means patients may have more pain at home than they did in the hospital. To decrease and avoid pain, patients will need to take oral medications.
The oral pain medications used may include:
- Opioid medications, such as oxycodone
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as ibuprofen and COX-2 inhibitors
- Aspirin, a pain reliever as well as a blood thinner
- Gabapentin, a medication developed to treat seizures but sometimes prescribed to treat nerve pain
People should not wait until their pain becomes severe before taking medications. Oral pain medications do not take effect immediately. In addition, pain is easier to stop before it starts.
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Fluid Retention In Leg After Knee Surgery
Fluid retention after surgery affects almost every patient after surgery. Technically this condition is called edema. In the case of edema, the fluid becomes trapped in bodily tissue, particularly in the legs, feet, and ankle.
This condition leads to painful swelling, and you may notice one leg is bigger than the other. Edema may occur due to tissue death, circulatory problems, weight gain, kidney dysfunction, or IV fluid given during surgery.
To lower the symptoms of edema, you can follow the following tips.
- Lower the intake of salt
- Symptoms of infection redness, warmth, severe pain, pus drainage, red streaks, fever
How To Improve Knee Flexion
- HOW: Sit at the edge of a table or some sort of elevated surface. Ideally, you dont want your feet to touch the ground. Place your unaffected leg under your affected leg, fully supporting it. Slowly let your affected knee bend by lowering your feet. At some point, you will feel a gentle stretch. Hold for the desired amount of time, and then use your unaffected side to help straighten your knee out once again. Repeat.
- FEEL: If you are doing this after surgery, it is normal for this to feel a bit uncomfortable. There should never be any sharp pain, but aching is fine.
- COMPENSATION: Relax! Use your other leg to support your affected side.
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What If You Freeze Too Long
Putting ice on a wound for too long can do more harm than good. As ice constricts blood vessels, it can reduce blood flow to the injured area and slow down the healing process. Ice should not be needed after the first 24 hours, unless your doctor recommends it to actively reduce swelling or relieve pain.
Can You Ice Too Much After Knee Replacement
Ive been asked if there is such a thing as icing too much. Generally, you dont want ice on your knee all day. Exercise and movement is an important part of healing so dont remain in one position and ice your knee constantly.
In my experience, icing should be done alternatively with movement. Early after TKR surgery, youll be icing more often. After a few months, youll likely ice less often.
The length of time you ice matters and you wont want to ice for longer than 15-20 minutes at a time. Longer icing might damage skin or cause localized frostbite.
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Activity Restrictions After Knee Replacement Surgery
Patients are typically given a list of activities they should not do, also called precautions. Common restrictions during this phase of recovery include:
- No driving. Pain medications, pain, stiffness, and other factors will affect a persons ability to operate a motor vehicle.
- No swimming or taking baths. Immersing the wound in water increases the risk of infection.
- No carrying heavy loads. The extra weight will put added stress on the new knee.
Patients should adhere to the all activity restrictions assigned by their surgeons office.
Myth Buster #2 Icing Reduces Swelling
Swelling and edema are also regulated by chemical changes at the site of injury. Changes in temperature applied to the skin can not significantly change the chemistry deep under the skin. If a noticeable change in swelling is noted upon removal of an ice pack it is largely due to the mechanical compression of the ice pack squeezing the fluid out of the area and not due to the cold temperature of the ice pack.
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How Long Does It Take For Swelling To Go Down After Knee Surgery
Recovery from knee replacement surgery is gradual, but it is well worth the effort, as it helps to improve mobility. Aside from that, you will not experience stiffness, pain, or swelling.
However, after a knee operation, you might be concerned about a swollen foot. Dont fret its just a recovery sign and will disappear within 2 to 3 weeks. Withal, swelling can last from 3 to 6 months in cases of fluid retention.
Therefore, it is recommended to visit your physician, or a rehabilitation center, frequently to prevent future complications. An experienced physiotherapist can also help you to recover faster from symptoms.
How Long Do You Need To Elevate Leg After Knee Surgery
Keep your operated leg elevated at a minimum of a 45-degree angle. Prop your leg on cushions or pillows so your knee is at least 12 inches above your heart for the first three to five days after surgery. Keep your leg elevated if your knee swells or throbs when you are up and about on crutches.
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Wear Compression Stockings After The Surgery
Another helpful way to reduce swelling after ankle replacement is the use of compression stockings. The purpose of compression stockings is to reduce swelling in the ankles, feet, and lower legs. Along with reducing swelling, compression stockings prevent fluid from building up in affected tissues.
These stockings come in a variety of compression levels. Your doctor will determine which is the best compression level for you.
Insight Into Icing And A Total Knee Replacement
Here is a reprint of one of my popular posts that I continually get requests for. It contains my insight into icing and a total knee replacement. Enjoy!
Hi my favorite readers! I just found out that some patients were not told about icing after having a total knee replacement done. This is unbelievable to me.
Without icing, my knee would be so swollen and painful, it would be difficult to walk. Icing keeps the swelling in check. It also helps decrease the pain after exercising. In the hospital, I had ice on all the time.
There are a number of resources online about how to ice after a total knee replacement. One important thing to remember is to elevate your feet above your heart level. One of my favorites is by Peerwell at . Take a look for more info.
Once getting home, I iced for about 2-3 hours per day at least. I dont believe those who say that its too much. I know it helped me out, so I dont listen to naysayers.
Today, almost 5 months after my tkr, I still ice after exercising. Its usually for about 30 minutes now. I know I need icing when I can feel my knee and its warm after exercising. That means it got a workout
Prior to my tkr, I used to think icing and ice packs were a waste of time. My, how times have changed during my tkr recuperation.
NOTE: Just be sure not to ice for so long that your tkr knee skin freezes! It can happen. That is one crazy experience.
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Polar Products Active Ice 30 Knee & Joint Cold Therapy System With Digital
- Effective, soothing and localized treatment: designed to reduce localized pain and swelling following surgical procedures or trauma.
- Strong, silent and lightweight: cold rush uses a brushless motor to produce a whisper-quiet unit that allows patients to get the rest they need to properly rehabilitate from their injuries.
- Includes a knee pad: for ease of use, the cold rush therapy system comes with a soft pad and insulated long tubing.
- Warranty: worry-free purchase.
- Stay cooler, longer! the highest ice-to-water ratio in the industry and a design that produces less heat transfer from the motor to the water combine to ensure cold therapy pain relief.