If you’ve had a total knee replacement, you’ve likely experienced something many patients come to dread: fatigue. Total knee surgery can be exhausting and make simple activities painful, like bending down to pick up something off the floor.
Do you suffer from extreme fatigue after knee replacement surgery?
Fatigue is a main postoperative complication of total knee replacement. Causes of fatigue after TKR can be multifactorial, but are most often due to pain and the inability of the patient to mobilize. Fatigue is more common after early mobilization and in patients with higher physical activity levels prior to surgery.
So why do you have fatigue after total knee replacement? To answer that question, let’s first look at what causes it.
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Is Fatigue Normal After Knee Replacement Surgery?
Fatigue is one of the common problems people experience following total knee replacement (TKR). It is also linked to heart and respiratory issues. Fatigue can occur at any point throughout the recovery period. However, it is most common in the first few days following surgery, depending on how well a patient responds to anesthesia and pain medication.
Moreover, daily activities such as work, physical treatment, and chores can leave you fatigued at the end of the day. It’s normal to feel tired on occasion, but if weariness becomes a serious issue in your everyday life, there may be more to the matter than you know.
You should expect to be fatigued following surgery, but if you are completely exhausted, you should go to your surgeon for more guidance.
What Are the Causes of Fatigue After Total Knee Replacement?
Some people don’t feel tired after the operation, but most TKR patients feel it. Typically, people believe that postoperative fatigue results from anesthesia. However, it is not a matter of fact, as most patients feel lethargic even months after surgery. It is generally due to lack of physical activity or carelessness after post-operation.
Anyhow, the following are the few main factors that can result in postoperative fatigue.
- Anemia—Blood loss during the operation
- Lack of proper sleep
- Irritable pre-surgery nerves (aggression, stress, depression)
- Pain killers and other prescribed medicines during or after surgery
- Lack of nutrition during or after the surgery
- Lack of physical movement and exercise
- Lack of muscle strength
- Physiological changes in the blood vessels and blood
Apart from these, physical and psychological stress, as well some allergic reactions, may result in extreme fatigue after total or partial knee replacement.
How Long Does Post-Surgical Fatigue Last?
It is natural to feel weary following surgery, but this should improve as your body recovers over time. Typically, 5 to 7 days in the hospital is required for a person to feel better. However, some people may require more time to recover.
It depends significantly on age, general health, and operation type. Anyhow, if you follow after-surgery precautions and take your medicines properly, you are more likely to assemble energy and build up muscle strength.
However, if you suffer from dreadful fatigue that hinders you from doing your daily life activities or is getting worse day by day, it is not normal TKR fatigue.
Treatment for Fatigue After Total Knee Replacement
Normally, postoperative fatigue gets normal day by day. Still, if the condition continues or worsens with time, it may indicate a knee infection, drug interaction, iron deficiency anemia, or stress. Whatever the situation causes you to feel tired, you should let your surgeon know your condition to avoid any worse condition.
Here are some treatment options for quick relief of fatigue after TKR.
- Try to stay hydrated after surgery. For this, you should drink plain water. Moreover, fresh fruit juices can also help you in gaining energy. However, don’t consume tea, coffee, or alcohol after surgery. Although these fluids can improve fatigue, they may result in a crash. Therefore, say a clear no to caffeine or alcoholic beverages.
- Don’t overdose on your medicines. Ask your doctor for only painkillers, as medications can cause fatigue.
- After surgery, exercising too soon will most likely set you back rather than improve your condition. Instead, consult with your physician about your recovery strategy and work together to set reasonable goals.
- Eat well, nutritious food, mainly focusing on iron. Food such as leafy green vegetables, fish, chicken, nuts, and fortified cereals are rich in iron. The iron-rich diet helps increase the hemoglobin level, which prevents iron deficiency and related fatigue.
- Mostly, fatigue and restlessness after surgery are due to lack of sleep, either due to pain, irritation, or stress. However, quality sleep has an influential role in the recovery of your knee replacement wound. Therefore, improve your sleep quality to reduce surgery-related fatigue.
Extreme Fatigue After Total Knee Replacement – When to See a Doctor?
Although the fatigue after the surgery is normal, there are some instances in which you should not avoid your condition and consult a doctor immediately, for example, extreme fatigue that is worsening over time along with fever and joint pain. Here are the conditions that require instant medical attention:
- Loss of consciousness
- High severe, chill, and pain
- Unusual stool color (black, tarry, green, bloody)
- Nausea or vomiting (coffee-like vomit)
- Extreme fatigue
- Fainting or dizziness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Cold sweat
- Difficulty breathing.
- Chest pain
- Urinary incontinence or blood in the urine
Precautions After Knee Replacement Surgery
Following total knee replacement surgery, you must take particular care to avoid post-surgical complications or damage and dislocation of your replaced knee.
Following are precautions you should consider after the joint replacement:
- Use a cane or walker to prevent sudden falls or trauma after TKR surgery.
- Manage the post-surgical pain with the help of your surgeon. Chronic pain and fatigue after knee surgery may affect the rehabilitation process
- Try to treat the leg swelling after knee replacement, as it can cause joint infections.
- Minimize your activities as much as possible, even walking too.
- Consider physical therapy or a rehabilitation program for fastening the process of knee healing.
What Not to Do After Knee Replacement?
Many people do not follow the surgeon’s instructions properly, and the consequences result in knee dislocation or severe pain that may turn into chronic pain. Therefore, you should take proper precautions in the first 3 months after total knee replacement. After that, your knee is more likely to be fixed in place; thus, it has minimal chances of displacement.
Following is the list of a few dos and don’ts after knee surgery:
- Keep your legs straight, and don’t twist.
- Ensure that you are sitting in a chair that adjusts the height of the knee you have treated.
- Don’t stand for too long.
- Avoid sitting for too long.
- Sleep on the opposite side of your body from the area where the procedure was performed.
- Take quality sleep.
- Don’t do any hard exercise, activity, or workout.
- Ascend the stairs one at a time. Don’t climb!
What to Expect 5 Months After Knee Replacement?
Three to 5 months after knee replacement is quite challenging and rewarding. Indeed, every day, you will feel better. Most people see a reduction in pain and exhaustion as the weeks pass.
With each passing week, you should be able to walk more freely and farther, but it could be two months or more before you can walk properly again. You may still need a cane or crutches, but your doctor works with you to get you off those aids.
Anyhow, in some cases, you may get joint infection months after knee replacement due to a lack of post-operative precautions. In these cases, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs can help. However, first, consider an appointment with your doctor to avoid consequences.
Why do I feel so tired after my knee replacement surgery?
Many people who have knee surgery report feeling weary afterwards. Many people are unsure why they are fatigued in general or so exhausted after surgery. This condition may happen due to anesthesia reaction, little movement, or lack of nutrition. However, your doctor may have assured you that this sensation is transient and will only last for the first three days after surgery.
How do you overcome fatigue after surgery?
After surgery, the best therapy to combat is to take things slowly and steadily. Begin with easy exercises that don’t demand you to use all of your muscles’ strength. You can seek guidance from a skilled physical or occupational therapist at this point. If this isn’t possible, try to find other ways to exercise to speed up the healing process that will consequently reduce your fatigue level.
How can I increase my stamina after knee replacement?
Eating a healthy diet and simply working out are the most crucial factors that help you increase your stamina after knee replacement. However, initially, you should avoid the heavy workout instead do simple exercises, such as slow walking and ankle pump. Moreover, eat anti-inflammatory foods rich in iron and protein.
It is challenging to tackle the issue of fatigue after knee replacement surgery, but with the right attitude and treatment plan, it can be possible. Fatigue is a temporary symptom of total knee replacement surgery. You can get rid of it with quality sleep and a healthy diet. Nevertheless, if you feel more lethargic every day, you should consult your surgeon.