Recovering from Knee Arthroscopy

Recovering from Knee Arthroscopy

Knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to repair or remove damaged structures in the knee joint that can be causing knee pain and limiting knee range of motion. This can include repairing a torn ligament or meniscus, or removing irritating structures such as cartilage, an entire or portion of a meniscus, synovial membrane, and loose bodies within the knee joint.

Arthroscopic knee surgeries including procedures like meniscus repairs, meniscectomies, cartilage debridement, synovial membrane removal, and autologous chondrocyte implantation, are typically performed after trialing three months of nonsurgical treatment with little relief of symptoms. 

For anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) tears, physical therapy and pain management methods may be trialed for up to three months before considering surgery unless there is significant joint instability, presence of a meniscus or other ligament tear, or a need to return to sports that require cutting and pivoting.

Surgical intervention combined with several months of physical therapy, given appropriate time for adequate rehabilitation, is highly successful for returning people back to sports and recreational activities. Knee arthroscopy will entail several weeks or months of recovery in order to return to everyday activities. It is normal to have pain after the surgery, and restrictions will be put in place until your knee has healed adequately and acquired enough strength.

Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits to decrease inflammation will promote an ideal healing environment to facilitate your recovery from surgery. These include:

  • Get at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. It is best to limit light exposure and screen time one to two hours before bed and keep the temperature of your bedroom cool to promote deep sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet of whole, natural foods including meats, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and starches while limiting processed foods, sugar, refined grains like wheat and corn, and artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, and food additives.
  • Manage a healthy weight and lean body mass through diet and exercise.
  • Stay adequately hydrated so that your urine is light-colored and translucent. Dark yellow, opaque, cloudy urine is an indication of dehydration.
  • Maintain a positive attitude and learning how to cope with and manage stress. Staying connected to others and having friends and family for social support can have a significant impact on recovery and quality of life.

It's worthwhile to note that knee arthroscopy is not a cure all, for example, it is not an effective option for knee osteoarthritis, which is best treated with weight loss, physical therapy, medication, and possibly steroid injections. If osteoarthritis in the knee has progressed beyond a point where standing, walking, and going up and down stairs causes significant pain, a knee replacement is usually the only effective surgical intervention that yields lasting results for managing pain.

As degenerative changes of the cartilage of your knee continue with aging, discuss the risks and benefits of undergoing knee surgery with your doctor to determine if it is an appropriate option for you.

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