You should take opioids for the shortest time possible, and in the lowest dose possible, after your total knee replacement (TKR). Most doctors will prescribe 14 days of opioid medication after surgery. You may still have severe pain after 14 days. If so, your doctor will re-evaluate you and may prescribe additional pain medication. Most people do need opioids to manage pain after TKR surgery. But, you should stop taking opioids within six weeks of your TKR.
People recovering from a TKR are at high risk for long term use of opioids. This is why it is important to start decreasing your opioid medications as soon as your pain begins to improve. You can decrease your opioid dose by 20-25% every day or two as your pain decreases. Treatments other than opioids can also help relieve your pain after TKR. They are:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve)
- heat or cold therapy
The safe use of opioids begins before surgery. Talk to your doctor about a pain management plan. You should discuss how long you may have to take opioids, how to taper the dose, and non-opioid pain-relief options.
Opioids at the lowest dose will benefit you the most.