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You may have undergone knee replacement surgery to treat chronic pain and mobility issues, but a further problem arises when you still experience knee pain even after surgery has been performed. This may be temporary; however, there are certain instances where this can be prolonged, such as when an artificial knee joint infection is left untreated for too long, thereby impacting your quality of life and well-being. At Canova Medical in Wilmslow, Cheshire, our dedicated team of medical specialists can help you find the root cause of your knee pain after replacement surgery and provide effective treatments to ensure you achieve much-needed relief in no time.

When is knee replacement surgery required?

If you are experiencing persistent pain and movement difficulties due to excessive damage or wear and tear to the knee joint, knee replacement surgery (also known as arthroplasty) may be necessary.

Knee damage can be caused by:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Cartilage loss
  • Bone growth disorders
  • Knee osteonecrosis (bone death)
  • Knee injury

Knee replacement surgery is often the last resort if non-surgical treatments, such as injection therapy or physical therapy, have shown to be ineffective in alleviating knee pain. Replacement surgery can be either one of two types: total or partial.

In a total knee replacement, an artificial joint completely replaces the entire knee joint. A partial knee replacement, on the other hand, involves replacing only certain parts of the joint with their artificial counterparts. Depending on the extent of knee damage, your doctor will inform you as to which type of surgery is recommended for your particular situation.

Causes of pain after knee replacement surgery

Knee pain is an expected side effect and may be experienced immediately post-surgery but will gradually subside over time as the joint heals. However, it becomes a cause for concern if the pain appears to persist for longer than expected and shows no signs of letting up. In that case, it is essential that you seek medical advice right away — scheduling a consultation with our surgeon can bring you one step closer to getting the relief you need.

Some causes of pain after knee replacement surgery include:

  • Artificial joint infection: There is a chance for infection to occur immediately following surgery or several years after having your knee replaced with artificial joints. Some signs of infection include pain, discomfort, fever, redness, or tenderness in and around the treated area. To help treat the infection, revision surgery or medications such as antibiotics may be administered as necessary.

  • Loosening of the implant: Excess weight, high-intensity sports, or frequent movements around the artificial joint can loosen the knee implant and result in intense pain. The implant may also start to loosen if the bone surrounding it, which acts as a support structure, begins to deteriorate over time. As such, partial or total revision surgery may be necessary to remedy the issue.
  • Implant alignment problems: Although constant medical advancements have led to increased surgery success rates, there may be issues with alignment during knee implant insertion. As such, the implant may be misaligned within the joint, thereby affecting mobility and causing pain. This may also be corrected with revision surgery.
  • Knee instability: This is often caused by damaged or imbalanced knee ligaments, which directly affect the proper functioning of the knee implant. Symptoms may include swelling or tenderness in and around the treated area or knee buckling. In such cases, revision surgery may be necessary to treat the issue if non-surgical alternatives such as physiotherapy do not seem to work.

Diagnosing post-surgery knee pain

Along with a physical exam, it is essential to also carry out medical imaging tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis of post-surgery knee pain. This would allow the appropriate treatment to be administered right away, enabling quicker pain relief for the patient.

During a physical exam, your knee will be thoroughly examined to check for signs of infection and other complications. If the knee problem you are experiencing appears to go further beyond a simple issue that can be fixed immediately, your doctor may ask you to undergo X-ray imaging to check whether the knee implant has loosened or is misaligned. You may also be asked to do an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to ascertain the condition of the soft tissues within the knee.

Your doctor may also ask you to undergo certain lab tests to check for additional issues. One such test that is most commonly used to diagnose post-surgery knee pain is arthrocentesis. During arthrocentesis, a needle is inserted into the affected knee joint to draw out synovial fluid around the implant which will then be analysed for infection or crystallisation.

Ensuring a successful recovery after knee replacement surgery

While there are complications that may potentially arise after knee replacement surgery, there are indeed many ways you can prevent them from occurring. Post-surgery rehabilitation which includes physiotherapy, follow-up appointments, and knee-strengthening exercises, for instance, can help fasten the healing process and ensure an even quicker road to recovery.

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Apart from rehabilitation, it is equally important to maintain a balanced diet post-surgery. Make sure to incorporate lean meats/proteins, low-fat dairy products, fibre-rich foods, fresh fruits, and dark, leafy vegetables into your diet so that you get the nutrition you need to encourage faster healing and strength-building.

While it may be tempting to remain sedentary after undergoing surgery, this can actually do more harm than good. Do engage in regular, low-impact physical activity such as swimming to reinforce and acclimatise to your new knee joint. Avoid strenuous, high-impact activities such as football, basketball, and rock climbing. Take note that it is also vital to balance your physical activity with sufficient rest to ensure you avoid putting undue strain on your artificial joint.

Circling back to the importance of post-surgery rehabilitation, do make it a habit to regularly engage in physical therapy exercises both at home and at the physiotherapy clinic as these will help quicken the healing process significantly for a surefire recovery. These exercises will also help you adjust to your artificial joint while building up strength in your legs, enabling you to start walking to normalcy in no time.

Managing post-surgery side effects

Apart from knee pain, common post-surgery side effects you may experience include swelling and bruising in and around the treated area which may last for a couple of days up to six months. Your doctor will provide you with comprehensive aftercare instructions on how to manage these effects; however, you may typically be asked to place cold compresses on the affected area, wear compression stockings, or regularly keep your leg in an elevated position on a pillow.

If the knee pain after replacement surgery becomes too much to bear and shows very little signs of easing up, you may also take painkillers such as ibuprofen or naproxen as a temporary measure for relief. Your doctor may prescribe other pain medications for you to take as well. During physiotherapy, you may also have to perform certain specialised exercises that specifically target the areas where you feel pain.

An additional at-home treatment to help manage pain, swelling, and bruising includes the application of topical ointments, creams, or knee patches. Your doctor will recommend the best products to use for your particular situation.

When to seek emergency care

Although knee pain is considered to be a normal side effect after replacement surgery, it should never be ignored. In fact, you should carefully monitor the situation of your knee to ensure it does not worsen over time. You must seek immediate care if:

  • You are suddenly experiencing intense pain or tenderness in or around the treated area. This could signal blood clotting and should be addressed immediately.
  • You are experiencing intense pain both when in motion and at rest. This could indicate bacterial infection and, like blood clotting, should be addressed right away.
  • You are finding it difficult to engage in everyday activities due to persistent pain and mobility issues. Although rare, this could signal a loosening of the knee implant.
  • You are suddenly finding it difficult to breathe and are experiencing chest pain. This may be indicative of pulmonary embolism and must be treated as soon as possible.

Reach out to us as soon as you notice any of the above symptoms as these may signal post-surgery complications which, if left untreated, can prove to be life-threatening.

Get an effective fix for your knee pain by contacting us today

Knee pain can without a doubt be debilitating and the discomfort experienced after replacement surgery can be disheartening. But don’t let this discourage you — the pain that you may be going through right now can be treated so long as you seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity.

At Canova Medical, our team of medical professionals make every effort to ensure you receive the best treatment possible for much-needed relief — call us at 01625 529942 or book your consultation online today. Our clinic is conveniently located at 36A Alderley Road, Wilmslow SK9 1JX.