Knee Arthroscopy Recovery: Timing At-Home Care

Knee arthroscopy offers a minimally invasive solution to various knee problems, paving the way for a brighter future with improved mobility. However, the journey doesn’t end with the surgery itself. A crucial and exciting phase awaits you – recovering at home and returning to the activities you love. This blog offers practical tips and expert advice to accelerate your healing journey and get you back on your feet quicker.

Diagram showing where the viewing scope, irrigating instrument, and trimming instrument are used during knee arthroscopy

Understanding Knee Arthroscopy Recovery Time

Unlike major knee surgeries or even common injuries, recovery from knee arthroscopy is often very manageable and will not, in many cases, prevent you from walking. To learn more about the differences between arthroscopy and other procedures, check out our guide on common knee surgeries.

Generally, patients can expect mild to moderate pain for 2-4 weeks post-op. They can also expect swelling from 3-6 weeks after the procedure. Total recovery can take 2-3 months for most patients.

However, be mindful that recovery time varies from patient to patient. It also varies based on the exact procedures performed. For example, an ACL reconstruction would take a longer recovery than a meniscus surgery.

How long does it take to walk after arthroscopic knee surgery?

Rest assured, in most cases walking can be started on the same day of surgery, except for a few specific repair procedures and cartilage restoration techniques. However, it’s important to understand that your walking will be limited for the initial 2-4 weeks post-surgery.

During this time, you may need to use crutches or a walker for support while gradually increasing your weight-bearing activities as your strength and comfort improve. Your doctor will provide specific guidelines based on your individual recovery progress.

How long do you have to be off work after a knee arthroscopy?

Most patients with sedentary jobs can expect to be off 1-2 weeks with modified duties. Patients with more active jobs involving prolonged standing, walking, or lifting could require up to 8 weeks to return to full duty.

How long will my knee hurt after arthroscopic surgery?

Generally, patients can expect mild to moderate pain for 2-4 weeks post-op. Pain is usually mild after 3 weeks and typically returns to baseline 6 weeks after surgery.

What are the restrictions after knee arthroscopy?

To ensure optimal recovery and prevent complications, certain restrictions come into play. Don’t be alarmed! These aren’t permanent measures, but rather temporary guidelines to promote healing. This section will delve into the different types of restrictions you might encounter after your knee arthroscopy, helping you understand their purpose and navigate them effectively.

Day 1

You’ve conquered the first hurdle of your knee arthroscopy journey. Now, your focus shifts to the exciting task of recovery. Day one is all about taking gentle steps to kickstart the healing process.

  • Light Movement Is Key: While your knee might feel a bit tender, light walking is encouraged, even if you need the assistance of crutches or a walker for stability. Think short trips around the house, like navigating between your bedroom and bathroom or reaching the kitchen for a refreshing drink. Remember, these movements are meant to keep your blood flowing and prevent stiffness, not set Olympic records!
  • Bend and Straighten with Confidence: Go ahead and gently bend and straighten your knee throughout the day. This simple motion helps reduce stiffness and maintain your knee’s range of motion. Remember, listen to your body – any sharp pain or discomfort is a signal to slow down and rest.
  • Ice & Elevation: Throughout the day, whenever possible, prop your leg up on pillows or cushions. This helps reduce swelling and promotes a quicker recovery. Applying ice packs wrapped in a towel for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, can be a lifesaver for pain and swelling.

Week 1

Mild walking and standing are allowed. No walking for exercise or prolonged walking. Keep walking less than 5,000 steps a day.  You can gradually increase your standing time throughout the day, but avoid prolonged periods on your feet. Whenever possible, keep your leg propped up to help combat swelling and promote comfort.

Weeks 2-4

Moderate walking is allowed. Not to exceed 10,000 steps. If swelling is still present, walking must be reduced.

Weeks 4-6

Transition back to normal activities. Light jogging and leg workouts are allowed if swelling and pain have reduced sufficiently.

What are the do’s and don’ts after knee arthroscopy?

While knee arthroscopy offers a minimally invasive route to improved knee health, your body still needs time to heal and rebuild after surgery. To optimize your recovery journey and avoid setbacks, understanding the key “do’s and don’ts” is crucial. This section will be your guide, highlighting essential actions to promote healing and potential pitfalls to avoid.

Movement and Activity

  • DO Listen to your body: Gradually increase activity as your strength and comfort improve. Pain is a signal to slow down and rest.
  • DO Elevate frequently: Prop your leg up on pillows to reduce swelling and promote healing.
  • DO Use ice regularly: Ice packs applied for 15-20 minutes at a time can minimize pain and swelling.
  • DON’T Push too hard: Avoid strenuous activities like running, jumping, or heavy lifting until cleared by your doctor.
  • DON’T Neglect physical therapy: Attending prescribed physical therapy sessions is crucial for strengthening your muscles and regaining full range of motion.
  • DON’T Ignore swelling: Persistent or worsening swelling could indicate a problem. Notify your doctor immediately.
  • DON’T Forget about rest: Your body needs rest to heal. Take breaks throughout the day, and prioritize adequate sleep.


Resume a normal diet as tolerated, but do try to reduce salt intake to reduce swelling. Here are some other ways that diet changes might support your recovery:

  • Aim for lean protein sources like fish, poultry, beans, and tofu to support muscle repair and tissue growth.
  • Focus on fruits and vegetables, which are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that aid healing and reduce inflammation. Aim for a rainbow of colors on your plate!
  • Stay hydrated! Water is essential for transporting nutrients and flushing out toxins. Aim for eight glasses of water daily.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, avocado, and nuts can reduce inflammation and support joint health.


In most cases, all medications can be restarted the day after surgery. Please ask your Doctor for specific instructions regarding blood thinner medications, immune-modulating medications, diabetes medications, or any medications of concern.

Wound Care & Ice

Specific instructions will be provided by your doctor. But in general, the 1 cm portal sites will need gauze and tape to be changed daily until transitioned to bandaids by 5-7 days after surgery. Ice and elevation are recommended 4 times a day for 20-minute sessions until the swelling has completely resolved or for 3-4 weeks.

What is the fastest way to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery?

Following the physician’s specific printed instructions will ensure the fastest recovery.

Top recovery tips include:

  • Icing of the knee at least 4 times a day for 20-minute sessions
  • Limit walking to basic house activities for the first 2-4 weeks post-op
  • Elevate the extremity at the level of the heart or above after walking or every 6 hours
  • Following the physician’s specific written instructions
  • Maintaining a healthy diet and blood glucose level
  • No soaking of the wound in water or pools for 4 weeks
  • Properly changing dressings once a day with daily showering allowed
  • Going to physical therapy and performing exercises as instructed
  • If there is residual pain with certain activities limit those activities until the swelling and pain have completely resolved

Doctor examines patients knee as they lie down

Schedule an Appointment Today

Ready to take the first step towards a pain-free, active future? Whether you’re considering knee arthroscopy or simply curious about maintaining healthy knees, our team of experienced orthopedic specialists is here to guide you.

Schedule an appointment at Alexander Orthopaedics today for a personalized consultation, where we’ll answer your questions, address your concerns, and work together to create a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs. Don’t wait to prioritize your mobility – contact us now and embark on your journey to a healthier, happier you!