Stiffness After Knee Replacement Surgery

elderly man holding knee

In the days leading up to and following knee replacement surgery, patients face many questions. How long does it take for a knee replacement to feel normal? How long will pain and stiffness last? Will I experience any complications? Our team at OrthoBethesda has answers to your most common questions so you can prepare for surgery with peace of mind.

What Causes Stiffness After Knee Replacement Surgery?

Knee replacement surgery is a procedure used to replace worn-out cartilage in your knee joint. It’s often used to treat knee arthritis or other knee complications caused by medical conditions or injury. Even after a successful surgery, post-operative complications like knee stiffness can occur. Often characterized by a tight band feeling after TKR surgery, some patients experience difficulty or discomfort when straightening out or bending their leg. This stiffness may be caused by a number of different factors:

1. Preexisting Stiffness Before Surgery

If you experienced previous stiffness and soreness, you’re more likely to experience similar symptoms after surgery.

2. Poor Pain Control

After joint replacement surgery, you may need medication for pain management. If you don’t follow your pain treatment plan, you may find it harder to exercise the motion of your new joint replacement. This can lead to stiffness and limited motion.

3. Excessive Scarring

If you’ve had joint surgery or prior knee replacements in the past, you may have underlying scar tissue. This puts you at an increased risk of post-surgical knee stiffness. 

4. Health Problems

Some pre-existing system medical conditions such as diabetes can increase your risk of developing stiffness (arthofibrosis) after knee replacement.

Your Recovery Timeline: What to Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery

After knee replacement surgery, most patients wonder how long it will take before they’re back to feeling normal. For example, how long does it take to get a full range of motion? You may also be wondering how long you can expect any lingering stiffness to last. While every case is unique, there are typical timeframes you can use as a guideline.

Your range of motion capabilities often progress rapidly during the first three months following surgery, provided you are working with a physical therapist and following your doctor’s recommendations. Your range of motion may continue to improve for up to two years after your surgery. 

You can expect to use a variety of stretches and exercises in order to achieve optimal motion with your replaced knee. The normal range of motion after a knee replacement is defined as being able to bend your knee back to 90 degrees.

Experiencing Stiffness After Surgery? Schedule a Consultation

Because postoperative stiffness can result from a number of causes, it’s important to speak to a medical professional if you’re experiencing lingering pain and a limited range of motion. To optimize your flexibility and strength, we also recommend scheduling regular appointments with a physical therapist throughout your recovery process.

OrthoBethesda offers orthopedic care and physical therapy services to patients before and after surgery. Contact us today to learn more about your knee replacement surgery options or schedule a consultation.