It is important to manage swelling after knee surgery, because it can lead to pain and can make it more difficult to resume everyday activity. The best ways to manage swelling are rest, elevation of the leg, and the regular application of ice. Of course, any advice or instructions from a medical professional regarding the healing process and pain management should always be followed to prevent causing damage to the knee after surgery. Medication will generally also be prescribed to help reduce pain and swelling.
While it is important to get up on your feet and start moving around as soon as possible after knee surgery, this should only be done in very short periods of activity. For instance, getting up and walking slowly around the house for five or ten minutes per hour, then resting for the rest of the time, is usually recommended. This allows the knee to begin moving and getting stronger as the muscles build back up, which will help to speed up the healing process and make eventual physical therapy easier, but it will not cause too much swelling. Staying on the feet for too long can make swelling much worse.
When you are resting, this is the time to elevate and ice the knee. It is best to place the knee above the hips to reduce swelling; this can typically be easily achieved by adding some pillows under the leg, whether you are sitting in a reclining chair or laying in bed. Ice should be applied at regular intervals: place it on the leg for about 10 to 15 minutes, then removed for the same amount of time, then put back on. The area will typically also be wrapped with a compression bandage to help control swelling after knee surgery.
Medication can be used to alleviate swelling and pain, but be sure to only use what was prescribed for you and to follow the directions carefully. It may take weeks before the swelling is completely gone and before more normal activity can be resumed. Medical professionals generally prescribe a certain amount of physical therapy, which can also help to promote healing in the knee. If the knee appears especially swollen or very warm to the touch after surgery, or red streaks can be seen, it is necessary to go back for medical treatment because the joint could be infected.