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Posted on in Orthopedics

Managing Pain While You Recover from Total Joint Replacement

Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael Sutton, McLeod Orthopaedics Dillon

Total Joint Replacement  for Knees and Hips can reduce pain, increase mobility and enhance overall quality of life. So, why do people wait…and wait…delay…put off…find excuses to avoid the surgery?  For many, it’s anxiety over the pain they’ll have while recovering from the surgery. “There will be pain, as there is with any surgery,” says McLeod Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Michael Sutton. “Yet, remember two things.  One: Unlike the pain from your knee before surgery, this pain will ease and eventually vanish as you complete your rehab.  Two: New developments continue to improve post-surgical pain management.” 


Many surgeons begin well before the procedure by talking with patients about their anxiety, educating them fully about what to expect, and even starting patients on some pain control medications before the surgery.

It’s important that patients discuss with their surgeon any expectations or fears. Sharing previous experience with pain management – good or bad – is also important. Studies show that women, between the ages of 45 to 65 and overweight individuals may experience the most pain following surgery.


While you’re in the hospital, the staff will ensure you receive appropriate pain medication. After you go home, your pain management plan may include several approaches (what the doctors call multi-modal).

Most patient’s pain after surgery is well controlled within a week or two.  Additional pain medications may be needed during serious physical therapy.

“E & I” – simply Elevating and Icing your surgical point is one of the easier ways to control swelling and pain. 

You’ll likely be told to take some aspirin or ibuprofen (technically NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs [NSAIDs]).

Your surgeon may prescribe pain medication that combines NSAIDs with an Opioid (Codeine, Tramadol). Tell your physician if any of these medications create extreme dizziness.  

You are better able to control your pain if you can take the medications before an episode of pain starts up again.  

Addiction to the painkillers – while a possibility – is very rare when using them only for a few weeks.  About 4 weeks after surgery, your Orthopedic Specialist will begin reducing the dosages. And you may require less and less until about 10 to 12 weeks after surgery.


As you undertake the recovery/rehabilitation phase of your total joint replacement, keep your Orthopedic Surgeon informed about any medication you’re taking. Even vitamins, supplements or over the counter drugs, such as ibuprofen. 

Some medications can cause negative side effects when they mix in your system.

If you are concerned about the total joint replacement pain or pain management, talk to an Orthopedic Specialist about your feelings and options to consider. 

Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you. 

Sources include:  McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthpaedic Surgeons, National Institutes of Health, Hospital for Special Surgery, Journal of Opioid Management, Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Foundation for the Advancement of Research in Medicine.

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