Joint Replacement Surgery Rehabilitation

During Your Hospital Stay

The first night of your stay, you will be somewhat groggy from the medications you receive in surgery. For the first 24 hours, pain medication may be given intravenously using a pump that you can control. Nurses will closely monitor your vital signs, urinary output and any drainage from the joint that was operated on.

The Rehabilitation Process Begins

If you're having your knee replaced then after surgery you'll begin using a continuous passive motion machine (CPM) in your hospital bed. The CPM bends your knee for you. Over time, the rate and amount of bending will increase. The CPM will help speed your recovery and reduce pain and stiffness while you're in the hospital.

Whether you're having your knee or hip replaced, you will be encouraged to start moving and walking as soon as the first day after surgery and to do as much as you can for yourself by the second day, including going to the bathroom or taking walks in the hallways. You'll always have someone there to help.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

Ask your surgeon if you qualify for
The Trail Ride: Rapid Recovery Joint Program

This innovative program is designed to get you active more quickly after your surgery. More »

Your physical and occupational therapy sessions will begin the day after your surgery. These sessions are very important to your progress during the rehabilitation process. You'll have two to three sessions a day, and each session will last 45 to 60 minutes.

Physical therapists will teach you the exercises you need for optimal recuperation. They'll also teach you weight-bearing techniques using a walker or crutches.

The occupational therapist is trained to assist you in adapting your daily activities to your limitations while recuperating after surgery. You'll receive instruction for a variety of activities, including walking, climbing stairs, bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, transfering from your bed to a chair, and traveling in a car.

What if I'm not making progress? You may need a short stay at the Scott & White Center for Rehabilitative Medicine - Herring Campus (or a rehab center in your town) or a skilled nursing facility after you leave the hospital and before you go home. At the Center for Rehabilitative Medicine at Hillcrest, you will learn how to safely do your daily activities on your own.

At Home

Our Recommendation

We highly recommend you have someone at home to assist you on a full-time basis for the first 48 to 72 hours after you leave the hospital and perhaps on a part-time basis for the following week or two.

Generally, if you live with someone who is able to assist you after surgery, you will be discharged from the hospital to go home. Most patients can go directly home if the physician and therapist consider it safe.

If you live alone and don't have assistance, or if you are not progressing rapidly enough in outpatient therapy sessions, we may recommend a short stay at a rehabilitation center like the Scott & White Center for Rehabilitative Medicine at Hillcrest. If you'll need a longer stay to recuperate, we can recommend a skilled nursing facility.

Rehabilitation Continues

Your physical therapy sessions will continue on an outpatient basis once your return home from the hospital. We'll make arrangements for those sessions to take place at your home or at a physical therapy facility.

You’ll use a walker or crutches for the first six weeks after surgery. Then, you’ll need a cane for about six weeks. After that, you probably won’t need any support for walking.


To aid in your recovery, it’s necessary to get regular exercise, gently working your new knee or hip. Low-impact, safe activities include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Cycling
  • Golfing
  • Hiking
  • Gardening

You should avoid activities that put too much stress on your new joint, including:

  • High-impact aerobics
  • Kickboxing
  • Tennis
  • Racquetball
  • Contact sports, such as football
  • Running or jogging


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