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Updated 2 August 2023

Joint replacement surgery is painful – just like any other surgery. Here is some information about what to expect and things to look out for.


Pain is often the biggest issue after your surgery, but it should be expected. It is key that you continue to follow your pain management programme and exercises.


It is common to have some generalised swelling around the joint.

For knee replacements, swelling often gets worse if you sit for prolonged periods so we encourage you to remain gently active.  Elevating your leg, ensuring you keep the leg straight will help reduce swelling but for no longer than 45 mins at a time. 

Using ice packs can help reduce swelling and ease the pain. Place on the knee and leave for 20 minutes and allow one to two hours between ice applications to allow your skin to return to normal.

If you experience increased swelling and pain, please seek medical advice.

Sleepless nights

It is common for people to experience some disturbance in their normal sleep pattern in the first few weeks after an operation. Please do not worry as this usually improves with time.

If you have had a knee replacement, do not sleep with a pillow underneath your knee.  


Constipation is expected and is usually due to the pain relief medication you are taking. We will give you some laxative medication as part of the routine pain relief package. Please ensure you take these as prescribed, along with plenty of water to drink. Keeping mobile will help reduce symptoms.

If you are continuing to struggle with constipation, then please discuss this with your GP.

Washing and dressing

The dressing over your wound will be showerproof, so you will be able to get it wet. Many people prefer to strip wash for the first few days. Consider putting a chair or stool in the bathroom so you have somewhere to rest.

If you have had a knee replacement, you many need some help in dressing for the initial recovery. 

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Blood clots in the leg can occur after joint surgery. If the area around your scar becomes hard, swollen, hot and painful, especially in the calf area, then this could be a sign of a blood clot and you need to seek medical advice.

Support after discharge

There is always someone available who you can contact for advice after your discharge. You will be given information about who you can contact if you require any help.

You will receive a routine follow-up call the day after your discharge. 

You can contact your surgical consultant's secretary who will be able to assist you in contacting a member of the team.