After a knee replacement surgery, you will generally spend a couple of days in the hospital or perhaps even in a rehabilitation center. Then, you will be sent home to continue your recovery — and for many knee replacement patients, this is the hardest part. It's important to manage your recovery and to take good care of yourself so that your knee heals well and continues to serve you. How do you do that? You can start to follow these tips.

Use your crutches or walker

You'll typically be sent home with either crutches or a walker to use for at least the first month after your knee replacement. Use these devices, even once you start feeling like you can do without them. One fall could damage your knee replacement, rip open your stitches, or otherwise cause problems that would hinder your recovery. Don't try to navigate stairs, walk on slippery surfaces, or take any other risks.

Take your pain relievers before you think you need them

One common mistake people make in recovery is waiting to take their pain reliever until their knee is really throbbing. If you wait this long, the pain reliever will only take the edge off the pain. On the other hand, if you take the pain reliever before the pain gets too bad, the pain reliever will keep the pain from developing in the first place. This approach is also better for managing the inflammation that appears after a knee replacement, which will speed up the healing process. Most patients are prescribed NSAIDs after knee replacement; these medications ease both inflammation and pain.

Move around a little

For the first day or two you are home, you may not feel like doing more than sitting on a couch. But after that, you really do need to get up and moving, at least a little. Crutch yourself back and forth across the room, and do some upper body stretches. This will keep your blood flowing, which will help keep the inflammation in your knee to a minimum. Once you have your first session with a physical therapist, they will show you some exercises you can do to start stretching and strengthening your knee. Doing these exercises daily will also help you recover.

A knee replacement can restore your range of motion and allow you to walk without knee pain again. But you do have to get through this at-home recovery period, first. Follow the tips above, and rely on your physical therapist for additional guidance.