Managing Total Knee Replacement Fear

Regardless of how many people I speak to and regardless of how we communicate (in person, via phone, through e-mail or on social media), there is one topic that comes up over and over. The one thing that resonates with people before and after total knee replacement is fear. Fear is not reserved for children or babies. It happens to EVERYONE!

Fear is an illusion because we create it within ourselves. However that illusion is so real that it causes a psychological and physiological response. Fear causes sweating, physical pain such as headache or stomach ache, sleeplessness, nervousness, anxiety and panic.

The acronym for fear is
False evidence appearing real. Fear may be an illusion but the response it creates is real.

Before total knee replacement

1. There are fears about the actual surgery. Every surgery has risks. These risks often keep people living in pain because they are afraid of the risks that total knee replacement or any other surgery carries.

2. There are fears about the pain. Questions loom. How much pain will I be in? How long with the pain last?

3. There are fears about physical therapy (PT). Will I need PT? How long will I need PT? Will PT hurt? This question is a big one because it leads you back to question two about pain and starts an endless cycle of questions and fears related to pain.

After the surgery

1. There are fears about complications related to surgery. Again every surgery especially those on the extremities (arms and legs) carry a risk of blood clots. So you question, do I live in pain every day or do I take the risk? (That is a calculated risk that is best for you and your surgeon to discuss).

2. There are again fears about pain. Will this pain ever end? How long does it take for the pain to get better?

3. There are fears about caring for yourself. When can I drive? When can I take care of myself? How long will I need a walker or cane?

Regardless of whether it’s before surgery or after, most people experience some level of fear. Fear is a normal part of the process. In fact fear is a normal part of life. Everyone experiences fear to some extent or another. Fear does not go away. No one is exempt from fear. Left unchecked fear can dominate your life and stop you from experiencing life at its best. Fear stops people every day from making decisions that benefit them. Fear stops people from flying on airplanes even through air travel is safer than driving. Fear stops people from committing in relationships. Fear stops people from changing careers or jobs. Fear stops people from having total knee replacement when they so desperately need it.

The thoughts about things that may possibly happen or unanswered questions cause people to stand still. They become stuck in a state of indecision.

Unfortunately, we can’t get rid of fear but we can learn to manage it. Managing fear is about learning to stand in your own power and trusting that you are capable of making the best decisions for you.

Steps to manage fear about surgery

1. Change your vocabulary – words have power. Use words that empower and uplift you instead of shrinking you. Stop making statements such as, ‘this is terrible’. If you say that, your brain interprets everything as terrible regardless of where or not it actually is. Stop asking “what if” questions. “What if” questions ask unanswerable questions about future events that have not occurred (Ex. What if I am in a lot of pain after surgery). As such you cannot possibly know the answer. These questions only terrorize you and keep you stuck in a state of indecision.

2. Re-frame fear as curiosity – instead of dreading total knee replacement get excited about living a pain free life that is the end result of total knee replacement. Expect a positive outcome. Being positive has an emotional impact and a physical one.

3. Trust
a. Trust the process. Trust that you have everything you need to have a successful outcome. (Great doctors, great home care, a great physical therapist and a great mindset). A great mindset is one that says I can achieve anything I set my mind to even when you feel like you physically cannot go further.
b. Trust god’s plan for your life and that god will provide whatever you need
c. Trust that resources are available to you in every situation

4. Take responsibility for your life – stop allowing other people to make decisions for you. You give your power away when you make your happiness, success or decisions contingent upon what someone else does or doesn’t do. Stop listening to other people’s horror stories. Second and third-hand stories are usually just that….stories filled with unintentional half truths and inaccuracies. Take responsibility for yourself by making the best decision for you based on your health, pain level and options available to you.

5. The last step to managing fear is breathe. Breathing creates clarity. In that moment of clarity fear subsides just long enough for you to act. When you are able to think clearly, you are able to make sound decisions.

Managing fear takes continuous practice. It is not something you can do once and forget about it. However, with enough practice managing fear becomes second natural. When it becomes second nature, you are able to manage fear in any area of your life.

Don’t allow fear to rob you of the life you deserve!

Live Joyfully
Kimberly is a life coach and author who specializes in working with people with chronic pain or chronic illness.
Want the support of a life coach that understands chronic pain visit.
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For more information on arthritis, preparing for total knee replacement and what to expect after TKR check out my books. Available at

I Have Arthritis, Now What? (Ways to Manage Arthritis Pain)

I Have Arthritis, Now What? (Ways to Manage Arthritis Pain)

I Need a Knee Replacement, Now What? (How to Prepare for Knee Replacement Surgery)

I Need a Knee Replacement, Now What? (How to Prepare for Knee Replacement Surgery)

I Had a Knee Replacement, Now What? (What to Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery)

I Had a Knee Replacement, Now What? (What to Expect After Knee Replacement Surgery)

I Had a Knee Replacement, Now What? (Six Week Companion Journal)

I Had a Knee Replacement, Now What? (Six Week Companion Journal)

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Categories : Well-being