Sleeping comfortably with a new Total Knee- advice needed!

Posted by amytro @amytro, Feb 17, 2019

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to get comfortable a) while watching TV in a recliner and/or b. In bed? I have tried all of the pillow arrangements to keep my knee high above my heart (and the pillow towers tip over unfailingly!!) and not comfortable. Should I/can I bend my knee in bed to the extent possible if I'm sleeping on my side? Is this bad? I just can't sleep on my back with my leg straight out. I'm averaging 3-4 hours of sleep a night according to Fitbit. I am 9 days out from surgery. Thank you to anyone who can help with positioning.

I usually sleep on my side whenever possible, and found that bending the “new” knee to the extent possible, and putting a small, firm pillow between the knees gave me the most pain relief, especially when the TKR knee was on top. You can give that a try. Most doctors and PT people very much discourage using a pillow sideways under the knee when laying on you back since it delays the progress of getting it to become straight. I had some success with putting several sofa pillows under the knee and calf while resting the heel on the armrest of the couch…. but only for a limited time. This will still keep the knee fairly straight while taking a lot of pressure off, and keeping it elevated. It’s also easy to ice it at the same time, if this is recommended by your doctor.

REPLY

I never used a recliner, but in bed I slept on my side with the surgery knee on top. I put a body pillow between my knees the removed the duvet from my knee as my scar was SO sensitive and painful for many months! Seemed to help the knee pain, too.

REPLY
@babette

I never used a recliner, but in bed I slept on my side with the surgery knee on top. I put a body pillow between my knees the removed the duvet from my knee as my scar was SO sensitive and painful for many months! Seemed to help the knee pain, too.

Jump to this post

thank you, Babette! I would love to lay on my side and do it just a little. Did you struggle with bending the surgery leg? That's my problem. I can bend it but not parallel to my good knee. Could you do that?

REPLY

I was able to bend my knee pretty comfortably and had good ROM from pretty early on. Now, 7 mos. out, I'm having lots of pain and stiffness and have an appt. with my surgeon to see about an MRI. Am wondering about scar tissue. Ugh.

Liked by amytro

REPLY
@babette

I never used a recliner, but in bed I slept on my side with the surgery knee on top. I put a body pillow between my knees the removed the duvet from my knee as my scar was SO sensitive and painful for many months! Seemed to help the knee pain, too.

Jump to this post

@babette @amytro I found the pillow between my knees to be hugely helpful also. I am mostly a side sleeper. I can only sleep on my back when it's absolutely necessary.
JK

REPLY

Thank you everyone. With your suggestions, and in general, better flexion and extension, sleeping is getting easier!

REPLY

@debbraw: I seem to have lost track, but someone active on the joint replacement site had TKR very recently. No complaints, so that’s good. I thought for a minute it might have been you heading for # 2, but then again, my attention span is getting shorter – as am I. Anyway, hoping for a successful result or update if you have information on whoever it is. Sorry to post this out of content.

REPLY

I am into my eight week after surgery had manipulation two weeks ago for scar tissue and am still fighting the tightness and swelling! I am still sleeping in recliner. Would give anything to be back in my bed sleeping on my side 😥

REPLY
@babette

I was able to bend my knee pretty comfortably and had good ROM from pretty early on. Now, 7 mos. out, I'm having lots of pain and stiffness and have an appt. with my surgeon to see about an MRI. Am wondering about scar tissue. Ugh.

Jump to this post

Ugh is right. Sorry to hear that. I think scar tissue is our biggest enemy in this whole TKR battle.

REPLY
@principina

I am into my eight week after surgery had manipulation two weeks ago for scar tissue and am still fighting the tightness and swelling! I am still sleeping in recliner. Would give anything to be back in my bed sleeping on my side 😥

Jump to this post

I am also at 8 weeks and still suffering a lot of tightness and some swelling but my range of motion is very good. What was your range of motion when you had your manipulation? I don't see my doctor for another 6 weeks who told me at 6 weeks that the swelling and tightness would go away in time.

REPLY
@ellerbracke

I usually sleep on my side whenever possible, and found that bending the “new” knee to the extent possible, and putting a small, firm pillow between the knees gave me the most pain relief, especially when the TKR knee was on top. You can give that a try. Most doctors and PT people very much discourage using a pillow sideways under the knee when laying on you back since it delays the progress of getting it to become straight. I had some success with putting several sofa pillows under the knee and calf while resting the heel on the armrest of the couch…. but only for a limited time. This will still keep the knee fairly straight while taking a lot of pressure off, and keeping it elevated. It’s also easy to ice it at the same time, if this is recommended by your doctor.

Jump to this post

Since movement within reason is the goal, my doctors encouraged whatever position allowed me to move. Keep knee elevated during day while sitting, but keep it flat with body at night. If you are not sleeping, you will not heal. After I weaned off the narcotics (as quickly as possible), I would use Tylenol PM to help on nights when I could not get comfortable. Btw…I weaned off narcotics by getting off during day first…the going down in strength over time at night…1 pill…1/2 pill…1/4 pill, then just tylenol. This worked for my 2 medial knee replacements, my repair of spiral fracture of the fibula and my tibial plateau fracture repair.

REPLY

Hi @amytro
I am 4 weeks post surgery for a left TKR. (My right was done in 2017). In terms of sleeping, it's still a little awkward for me. I sleep best if I elevate my surgery leg. My sleep preference is on my side and I'm just beginning to be able to turn on my side comfortably. I still can't stay there long.

@ellerbracke – Yes, that was me! Your memory is great. Thanks for your good wishes. I'm doing well. I had in-home PT the first 2 weeks and then started out patient PT. At last measure, I had full extension of my knee and was at 128 degrees flexion. I have been using a cane since the 2nd week. I can walk a little over 1 mile outside in my neighborhood. I take the cane, but I usually only use in on the trip home when I'm getting tired!

At this point, I'm trying to manage my pain meds. I am still taking 3 oxycodone tablets a day – 1 in the morning since I wake up stiff, 1 about dinnertime and one before bed. I feel like I need every one, but I'm going to try to cut out the dinnertime pill soon. I wish there was another option but the Extra Strength Tylenol does nothing for me and they won't let me take any NSAIDs. I had a bad reaction with some internal bleeding so I can't even take the Celebrex I was on to start with. @ellerbracke – didn't you say you got off the opiods very quickly? Do you have any secrets or tips? I have about 6 days left on my last prescription and I'd love to not need them anymore!

REPLY
@pthielen5923

Since movement within reason is the goal, my doctors encouraged whatever position allowed me to move. Keep knee elevated during day while sitting, but keep it flat with body at night. If you are not sleeping, you will not heal. After I weaned off the narcotics (as quickly as possible), I would use Tylenol PM to help on nights when I could not get comfortable. Btw…I weaned off narcotics by getting off during day first…the going down in strength over time at night…1 pill…1/2 pill…1/4 pill, then just tylenol. This worked for my 2 medial knee replacements, my repair of spiral fracture of the fibula and my tibial plateau fracture repair.

Jump to this post

@pthielen5923 – Hi Patti, Welcome to Connect! I liked your method of weaning off pain meds. Can you tell me what the difference is between plain old Tylenol and Tylenol PM. That might be the answer to my prayers! Thanks for your constructive comments.

REPLY
@debbraw

@pthielen5923 – Hi Patti, Welcome to Connect! I liked your method of weaning off pain meds. Can you tell me what the difference is between plain old Tylenol and Tylenol PM. That might be the answer to my prayers! Thanks for your constructive comments.

Jump to this post

PM includes antihistamine…in OTC dosage. Just took the edge off the pain. I learned this when I had the hands worked on…those are very VERY painful (LOTS of little nerves) and was in a cast with full elevation for 6-8 weeks (they take a tendon from your lower arm and create a new joint, so time in healing is a must). I was on narcotics for the entire time in cast…then weaned off. Learned from a very good doc that you can be more creative with meds as long as you are under the dosage. I got sick from anything I took at their dosage (gee…used to get high from Ipubrofen, so go figure??). So…instead of 2 percosets every 4-6 hours, I would take one every 3-4 hours…etc. I just used that same thought process as I got off them…reduce…see how you do…reduce more…etc. I hate the feeling of being on them, but they are a necessary evil in my mind, as long as my goal is to get off them all.

REPLY
@debbraw

Hi @amytro
I am 4 weeks post surgery for a left TKR. (My right was done in 2017). In terms of sleeping, it's still a little awkward for me. I sleep best if I elevate my surgery leg. My sleep preference is on my side and I'm just beginning to be able to turn on my side comfortably. I still can't stay there long.

@ellerbracke – Yes, that was me! Your memory is great. Thanks for your good wishes. I'm doing well. I had in-home PT the first 2 weeks and then started out patient PT. At last measure, I had full extension of my knee and was at 128 degrees flexion. I have been using a cane since the 2nd week. I can walk a little over 1 mile outside in my neighborhood. I take the cane, but I usually only use in on the trip home when I'm getting tired!

At this point, I'm trying to manage my pain meds. I am still taking 3 oxycodone tablets a day – 1 in the morning since I wake up stiff, 1 about dinnertime and one before bed. I feel like I need every one, but I'm going to try to cut out the dinnertime pill soon. I wish there was another option but the Extra Strength Tylenol does nothing for me and they won't let me take any NSAIDs. I had a bad reaction with some internal bleeding so I can't even take the Celebrex I was on to start with. @ellerbracke – didn't you say you got off the opiods very quickly? Do you have any secrets or tips? I have about 6 days left on my last prescription and I'd love to not need them anymore!

Jump to this post

Debbra: no tricks re. getting off opioids. I so far had a total of 4 surgeries for various joints, and other than the first 5 to 7 days after surgery I usually taper off rapidly. Probably a little too soon, since I end up with some bearable pain, but I want my indepence (driving!) back asap. Drove myself to outpatient PT 9 days after right shoulder repair. A little awkward hitting the turn signals and putting car in parking gear, but I was getting cabin fever. And generally speaking, most pain medications including opioids only seem to reduce pain for me, never take it away completely. And thankfully my PT people – not a single one in the group – have ever tried to painfully manipulate whatever joint had had the surgery, so I never needed to dope up before therapy. Continued success with your recovery – you are a shining example of determination (and, of course, also some luck?) with your progress.

REPLY
Please login or register to post a reply.