If you are in the process of recovering from a knee replacement surgery, one of the common questions you may be asking is how long after knee replacement can you drive?
The good news is that most people are able to resume driving within a few weeks after surgery. In this blog post, we will give you a more specific timeline for when you can start driving again. We will also discuss some things to keep in mind as you recover from your surgery.
Total Knee Replacement Surgery
Before jumping right into the recovery of total knee surgery or total knee arthroplasty, it is important to understand what the procedure conducted by the orthopedic surgeon is.
In general, the goal of this knee surgery is to relieve pain and improve function in people who have arthritis or other conditions that damage the knee joint.
The surgeon will remove any damaged cartilage or bone and then will replace it with an artificial joint called a prosthesis, essentially providing you with a new knee. The purpose of removing the damaged tissue is to alleviate the severe knee pain or dysfunction of the patient.
This new joint is usually made from metal and plastic materials. There are two types of joint replacement surgery: partial knee replacement and total knee replacement.
In this blog post, we will focus on total knee replacement since it is the more common of the two procedures.
Total knee replacement surgery usually takes about two hours to complete. You will be given either general anesthesia or spinal anesthesia for the surgery.
What Type of Doctor Performs a Total Knee Surgery
An orthopedic surgeon will usually perform this type of major surgery. An orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor, sometimes in sports medicine, who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and preventing disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.
These surgeons have completed extensive training in how to treat conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system.
If you are considering having knee surgery, your first step should be to consult with an orthopedic surgeon to see if you are a good candidate for the procedure.
Potential Side Effects of Total Knee Surgery
As with any type of surgery, there are potential risks and side effects associated with total knee replacement surgery.
The most common complications that can occur are:
– Blood clots
– Loosening or instability of the artificial joint
– Nerve or blood vessel damage
Less common but more serious complications include:
– Heart attack
– Pulmonary embolism
It is important to discuss the potential risks and side effects of surgery with your orthopedic surgeon before having the procedure.
Recovery Time After Total Knee Replacement Surgery
Most people who have this type of knee surgery are able to go home the same day or within a few days after the surgery.
You will likely need some help at home from family members for the first few days or weeks afterward as you begin the recovery process.
Your orthopedic surgeon will give you specific instructions on how to care for your new knee and what activities you should avoid during your recovery.
You will likely need to use a walker or crutches for the first week or two after surgery. You should not put any weight on your new knee until your surgeon tells you it is okay to do so.
You will also need to avoid bending your knee past a 90-degree angle for at least the first six weeks after surgery.
Your surgeon will likely tell you to start physical therapy soon after surgery.
Physical Therapy for Total Knee Replacement Recovery
Most people who have total knee replacement surgery will need to go through a course of physical therapy to help them regain strength and range of motion in their new knee.
The length of time you will need to attend physical therapy will vary depending on how well you are progressing, and the discretion of your physical therapist.
The goal of physical therapy is to help you regain as much function and strength in your new knee as possible.
You will likely be taught how to properly use a walker or crutches during physical therapy. Additionally, you will learn knee exercises to help improve the range of motion in your new knee and to help strengthen the muscles around your joint.
Occupational Therapy for Total Knee Replacement Recovery
Some people who have total knee replacement surgery may also benefit from occupational therapy.
The main goal of occupational therapy is to help you regain the ability to perform activities of daily living, or the normal activities you perform on a routine basis.
This may include teaching you how to properly get in and out of a car, how to safely climb stairs, or how to cook meals without putting too much strain on your new knee.
Your occupational therapist will also likely teach you how to properly use an assistive device, such as a cane or a raised toilet seat.
How Long After Knee Replacement Can You Drive?
You should not attempt to drive until your surgeon tells you it is okay to do so. Most people are able to start driving again within four to six weeks after surgery, as long as they are not taking pain medicine that could affect their ability to safely operate a vehicle.
You should always check with your orthopedic surgeon or primary care doctor before getting behind the wheel to make sure it is safe for you to do so. Narcotic pain medication is very strong and heavily affects reaction time.
Factors that Affect Returning to Drive Post-Knee Surgery
There are a few factors that can affect how soon you are able to return to driving after knee surgery.
– The type of car you drive: If you have a car with an automatic transmission, you will likely be able to start driving sooner than if you have a manual car. This is because you do not have to use your left foot to operate the clutch.
– How far you have to drive: Driving long distances may not be recommended immediately after surgery. You may need to wait until you are able to comfortably sit for long periods of time before attempting to drive long distances.
– Which leg was operated on: If your right leg or right knee was operated on, you may be able to start driving sooner than if your left leg or left knee was operated on. This is because it is generally easier to operate the gas and brake pedals with your right foot.
– Your level of pain: If you are still in a lot of pain after surgery, it may be difficult to safely drive. Especially because sometimes pain medication can have residual effects that affect brake response times. Make sure you have been off pain medicine for 24-48 hours prior to driving your vehicle.
– How well you are able to follow your physical therapy exercises: If you are progressing well in physical therapy and regaining strength and range of motion quickly, you may be able to start driving sooner.
– Whether or not you have someone who can help you: It is always best to have someone with you when you first start driving after surgery. This person can help you with tasks such as getting in and out of the car or retrieving things you may need while driving.
When Can You Return to Work After Total Knee Replacement Surgery?
An important factor in getting either a left or right knee replacement is when you can return to work. After your artificial knee is sufficiently healed you can return back to your job. For most people, this occurs within three to four months post-operatively.
If you have a sedentary job, such as working at a desk, you may be able to return sooner. This is because your job will not put too much stress on your new knee joint.
If your job is more physically demanding, you may need to wait longer before returning. You additionally may have to consider taking breaks to ice your knees to keep the swelling down with an ice pack, or other accessible methods.
You should always check with your surgeon before returning to work to make sure it is safe for you to do so.
In conclusion, it is important to check with your surgeon before returning to work or driving after total knee replacement surgery. There are a few factors that can affect how soon you are able to return to these activities, such as the type of car you drive, how far you have to drive, and which leg was operated on.
If you are still in a lot of pain after surgery, it may be difficult to safely drive. Make sure you have been off pain medicine for 24-48 hours prior to driving your vehicle. It is always best to have someone with you when you first start driving after surgery. This person can help you with tasks such as getting in and out of the car or retrieving things you may need while driving.
When returning to work, you may be able to return sooner if your job is sedentary. If your job is more physically demanding, you may need to wait longer before returning. You should always check with your surgeon before returning to work to make sure it is safe for you to do so.
I hope this article was helpful in answering the question, “How long after knee replacement can you drive?” If you have any additional questions, be sure to ask your surgeon. Thanks for reading!