Swelling after Knee Replacement: 5 things to know.

Swelling after knee replacement

Are you worried about swelling after knee replacement surgery for your right or left knee? Or you have heard about swollen new knees from others so much that you have decided to understand it better before you plan for your knee surgery.

One of the blog readers asked me the following question by contacting me: ” Hi, my name is Mary, and I am a 60-year-old person whose right knee was replaced six months ago. I am pleased with my knee replacement recovery, but I am concerned with swelling in my right knee. Early in the morning, my right knee is normal; but by the evening, my knee swells become stiff and bothers me! Why is that happening and what can be done about it? Please guide me.”

Swelling after knee replacement

Does it sound familiar? May be duration will be different for you when compared to Mary, but the swelling is bothering you. And thus you are searching on the web about this issue.

First of all, let me assure you that swelling after knee replacement is widespread and happens to all patients to some extent. Swelling to any part of the body after surgery or any injury is a widespread occurrence. So don’t worry too much about it.

Let me help you understand this situation by explaining to you about:

  • Why does it happen?
  • For how long it remains.
  • How to relieve swelling after knee replacement surgery?
  • Icing after knee replacement
  • Warnings and precautions

What and why of Swelling

Swelling is a physiological response within the body due to mechanical stress put on the body. 

Thus, whenever you twist your ankle or have some acute injury, your affected body part swells. Along with there is pain, increased redness, temperature as well as pain. 

So, when a Mary(or you)had knee replacement surgery, their operated knee joint complex goes through a lot of mechanical stress, and thus, it swells.

How long swelling lasts 

knee replacement incision

I can not answer this question because there is no right answer to this. 

From my experience as a PT with keenness on Knee replacement rehab, I can say that I have seen patients complaining about swelling problems for 3-6 months on average. 

However, there were some patients too, who had a swelling present for one or two years after knee replacement.

Icing after Knee Replacement

Icing after knee replacement

Ever wondered why Ice machine is on best 20 knee replacement gifts list, because of this very problem of knee replacement swelling.

Let me tell you ice will help you in many ways, including edema or fluid reduction and pain control.

Whenever you apply ice to the body part, it has four sequential effects on that body part: Cold, Burning, Aching, and Numbness.

The icing on the operated knee can result in blood vessel constriction, and thus it helps with swelling control after knee surgery. It also enables you to control pain after a knee replacement by numbing the nerves in the area.

One of the common questions asked is how long to ice after knee replacement surgery? The usual answer is 15-20 min for 2 to 3 times a day. However, you should consult with your doctor if you have any medical complications like diabetes or skin sensation issues.

Just a word of caution for proper incision care since icing can make area wet.

Elevation after knee replacement

elevation after knee replacement

Elevating your knee above the heart level helps reduce the swelling after knee surgery and help you control the fluid build up in your lower legs.

Having a right knee wedge can make your life much more comfortable. However, you can manage with regular pillows as well.

“How to elevate knee after knee replacement surgery.” query into the web comes out with a mixed result, which can confuse you. 

It is not rocket science, and the whole aim of elevating your knee is to reduce swelling. Just stack three or four pillows( depending on how soft they are) so that your knee is above heart level. 

Also, avoid dangling your feet and keep your legs above heart level position for a longer time.


A compression bandage is very helpful in controlling the swelling after knee surgery. However, the pressure should not be too much that it impedes blood circulation.

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends ankle exercises like ankle pumps very early on which help you control swelling after knee replacement. You should do ten repetitions on each leg every hour.

Share your thoughts

Share tour thoughts

Have you or your family member has undergone Knee replacement surgery? Or do you want to share something on this best knee replacement blog post?

Please do so by commenting below so that others can get benefit out of it.


Hi all. Welcome to my website www.kneereplacementrehab.com. I am Ankur Desai, a licensed physiotherapist in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. I have a special interest in musculoskeletal Physical therapy and more so in Knee rehab.

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