First, it really depends on what was actually done. There is a big difference between a partial menisectomy, meniscus repair, articular surface chondral repair and ACL reconstruction, for instance. Weight bearing and how aggressive you can do exercises will vary significantly. However, the common goal for all surgeries is to do a stepwise approach to reducing swelling, followed by regaining motion and then work on strengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings. Usually following a meniscus repair, there will be restriction of motion to 90 degrees the first 4 weeks and limited weightbearing with crutches. Likewise after cartilage surface repairs, weightbearing may be restricted initially and an unloader brace used. ACL surgery without a meniscus repair usually allows weightbearing as tolerated protected with a brace the first 6 weeks, but often patients are off crutches the first week. Partial menisectomy and “clean up” procedures often only require a cane in the opposite hand for a few days, and much quicker recovery. Cartilage repair and ACL reconstruction cases often will require a passive motion machine the first few weeks to keep the knee moving which promotes healing. It is important that each patient work closely with their surgeon to make sure they are following the right pathway. Regarding driving, some states may have laws that have restrictions on how long after surgery you can drive, but the general consensus in the orthopedic community is that once you are not taking narcotics and have full control of the leg (i.e. quadriceps function), it may be safe to drive. Your physical therapist can be consulted first to help see if this is safe for you. Exercises are a key element of recovery, and should initially be guided by a qualified physical therapist working with your surgeon to maximize your outcome appropriately. Everyone is an individual and will meet goals differently, and it is imperative to work as a team (patient, surgeon, and therapist) for the best results.
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