Knee arthroscopy is an alternative surgery to diagnose and treat various knee problems without the need for a large cut. Instead, surgeons would insert a tiny arthroscope after performing minimal cuts. This device has a small camera and all of the tools your doctor needs to do the same thing they would do with a large incision.
Thus, knee arthroscopy would have a reduced rate of complications, and patients can go back to their usual activities faster. However, there are still indications and recovery steps after knee arthroscopy, and for some time you will experience some changes in your life (including bathing and even going to the bathroom).
In this article, we are going to explore life after knee arthroscopy and cover everything you need to do, from everyday activities to recovery time and special recommendations to speed up your return to work.
Daily activities after a Knee Arthroscopy
Even if they are smaller incisions compared to other methods, knee arthroscopy is another surgical procedure. It is invasive, and it will need special care to avoid infection of the wound and to resolve pain and swelling. Taking care of your incision will become part of your day-to-day for the following weeks. Keep it clean at all times and maintain your tensor band snug without becoming too tight.
Keep your wound dry for at least 3 days or until the wound is not oozing anymore. During this time, you should not bathe but clean your body using a plastic bag to seal the wound area and make sure it won’t become wet. You can resume showering when the wound is totally dry, but bathing or swimming will take a bit longer: around two weeks when your wound is completely healed.
Going to the bathroom after knee arthroscopy can become difficult sometimes. In some cases, patients complain about dry and hard stools, and you may need a laxative in some instances. However, constipation is likely to be resolved if you eat more fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of water and clear fluids.
Recommendations and medications
There are certain recommendations you can follow to improve your symptoms:
- Using medications: Throughout your recovery time, you will likely feel pain and discomfort, especially during the first week, but it will improve gradually. Use painkillers and over-the-counter medications as instructed by your surgeon and reduce them as soon as you can. Also, keep them close if you ever need to spend the day out. You don’t know when you may need them.
- Applying ice: Another helpful method to improve swelling and pain is applying ice packs for 10 minutes using a towel or sheet. You can apply ice once again whenever you feel pain or swelling, up to 6 times a day. Remember that you need to keep your wound as dry as you can so it can properly heal. Therefore, do not apply ice directly to the skin. An option you can use is Ice therapy machines, which are portable, easy to use, and will reduce pain and swelling without leaving moisture.
- Quit smoking: A critical recommendation is to quit smoking. Before your knee arthroscopy procedure, your doctor probably mentioned how important it is to quit smoking for 2 months before surgery. You will still need another 3 months off cigarette smoking as it slows down the healing process in your articulation, and will impair your recovery time.
- Keep a balanced diet: Throughout this time, keep clean and balanced eating with a special emphasis on fluid intake. At first, you may not have the same appetite as before, but try to increase your intake as much as you can. If your diet has sufficient fibre and fluids, you will not suffer from constipation and other gastrointestinal problems.
Recovery time and physical therapy
After surgery, you will probably need to use a cane or crutch for a few days. You can resume walking without aid whenever you feel comfortable, but always taking special care about balance and stability. Some knee arthroscopy procedures will require a longer time with crutches regardless of what you feel, so pay attention to the recommendations of your doctor on the matter. Crutches will be helpful to maintain your balance and reduce pressure upon your articulation, so do not neglect them if recommended by your surgeon.
In either case, you will slowly regain balance and strength, but sometimes you would notice some swelling in your knee after standing up for a while or doing your day-to-day activities. This is entirely normal, and when that happens, it will be resolved by resting appropriately and laying down with your foot up.
Physical therapy and exercises to speed up your recovery will vary depending on the procedure, but you will require to strengthen your leg muscles after the procedure to speed up your return to work. Your return to work will depend on various factors, especially how physically demanding is your position and how is your recovering progressing. If you’re able to keep on working from home, it would be a suitable option to return to work faster, but it is up to your surgeon to analyse your individual case and give you recommendations adapted to you.
Regardless of your work, you will need to rest and recover for at least 2 days. During this time your day-to-day will be likely reduced to taking care of your wound, keeping your foot up, changing your wound dressings and keeping it clean. After one week, you can go back to a desk job that does not require walking around too much, and you may need to wait for 1 or 3 months if you have a physically demanding job. As for returning to sports, it will vary depending on the risks associated with it, and you need to ask your surgeon to get specific recommendations adapted to you.
As for driving, you will be able to go back behind the wheels as long as you are not taking painkillers that induce drowsiness or reduce your attention levels. In most cases, whenever you’re walking safely without crutches, it will be fine to drive as well. However, it will depend on whether your surgery was performed on the left or right leg, and recommendations will vary depending on your recovery, which is why you should talk to your doctor about the best time to resume driving.
Finally, we will leave this table as general guidance on your expected recovery time:
What Can YOU do?
|Expected recovery time|
|Weight bearing (walking)||2-7 days|
|Return to work (Easy duties at work)||1-2 weeks|
|Return to work (Physically strenuous work)||1-3 months|
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