I know there are other people just like me who are curious about their progress 3 months after knee replacement surgery. I’ve wondered if I am on track and I’ve done my best to search for information regarding “3 months post surgery”.
Human nature makes us want to compare ourselves to others, but each person has knee replacement for a different reason. Feel free to use my progress report for information but understand that our health, strength, and mobility before and after surgery will all be at different levels. Like my doctor told me, the healing process takes over a year.
Eleven weeks ago I was spending the majority of my time in a recliner. I was doing physical therapy even though it was painful. Time dragged by slowly.
The 3rd month has gone by quickly and I’ve returned to activities that I used to take for granted. I’m back to doing routine chores around the house, I’m driving, and once again active in recreational and social activities.
Physical therapy remains a big part of my life. The more I work at my therapy the stronger my knee and leg become. I’ve made enormous strides by sticking to a regular schedule of exercise and I’ve realized that movement, however painful, is extremely important for the knee joint.
In this article, I’ll share what’s working and what I’ve been able to accomplish this month. Time is a good healer itself, but hard work and quality physical therapy have made a huge difference in my recovery.
Physical Therapy 3 months After TKR Surgery
If you haven’t read my article on physical therapy post-surgery, I suggest you read that article first.
After my “home therapy” for two weeks and off-site therapy for the next 6 weeks, my off-site therapist gave me a written plan for all the exercises that she had assigned to me. If one isn’t given to you I suggest you ask your therapist!
All of the exercises using machines, bands, balls, and other equipment were available to me in my local fitness center. She suggested that I do a hard workout every other day and a light workout on alternating days.
I’ve been doing these on my own in the 3rd month.
- On hard workout days, I always warm up on the stationary bike for 10 to 15 minutes.
- I use the leg press and do 5 minutes of leg presses. At first, I used no weight, now I am using 40 pounds.
- I use the captain’s chair for leg lifts and calf raises
- I use the ball for ankle slides and squats.
- I use leg machines for extension and flexion and then stretch both claves for 30 seconds 3 times each.
Strengthening my hips has helped to relieve pressure from my knees (more muscle). I use a band to walk forward, backward and sideways and also do bridges to strengthen my hips.
Afterward, I go in the hot tub for 5 to 10 minutes and work on my range of motion before taking a shower and walking a mile home.
- On alternating days I swim a half-mile, ride a bicycle 6 miles or take a 3-mile walk.
Although I was in pain and limping before surgery, I was always active. I realize that some people may not be as active, or have other priorities with employment. I encourage you to remain active because exercising has helped with my leg strength and flexibility.
Activities and Recreation 3 Months After Knee Replacement
During the first part of my recovery, I was dependent on others to drive for me. You will be as well.
If your left knee is the surgically repaired knee then you might be driving before I did (mine was the right).
The last few weeks of offsite therapy I was able to drive myself. After feeling comfortable driving around my town I tried a 90-mile round trip drive with stops along the way. The frequent stops allowed me to get out and stretch and walk around.
If you’re planning on driving a far distance I’d advise you to stop every hour, get out of the car, stretch and take a short walk.
Cruise control is your friend.
It allowed me to do frequent ankle pumps that helped with circulation Things might be tough if you’re stopping and starting with traffic. Consider driving through large cities on a Sunday morning to avoid stop and go traffic.
Hiking and Walking
If you’re like me, the 3-month mark will allow you to walk around quite a bit.
Early on, I walked around my neighborhood. At 3 months I could walk a mile routinely and I could stretch it for 4 miles in the neighborhood (I’d require a day of rest if I walked that far).
Most of my walking is on asphalt and concrete sidewalks. Before surgery, this would have been a difficult task with a lot of pain – but I always push through. Walking poles were essential when I began taking long walks.
I experienced soreness after walking but no sharp bone-on-bone pain that I had before surgery. After long walks, I still ice my knee (read about my ice pack after knee replacement). Even if you feel good I’d recommend icing your knee as a preventative measure to reduce inflammation.
In the 3rd month, I began walking on the beach, twice a week. I walk 2 miles each time barefoot. Walking barefoot in the heavy sand to the shore was a bit awkward at first but once I reached the firm sand by the water it was much easier.
During the 3rd month, I also took a vacation and went on short hikes that included a 500 feet elevation gain, then descending the same 500 feet. Lesson learned: Going up is much easier than going down.
I took my time going downhill, going slow and making sure I avoided roots and other obstacles.
I began riding the stationary bike on the 3rd week of physical therapy. This was mostly for exercise, stretching, and strengthening but didn’t do much for my balance.
When it was time to transition from a stationary bicycle to a regular road bicycle, I started small. I rode around my street at first and was surprised how comfortable I felt.
I decided to push it a little further.
I then rode two miles around the neighborhood avoiding traffic areas. After a week of neighborhood riding, I began 6-mile rides out in the country (there’s very little traffic near my house). Most of the ride was flat with some minor elevation gain.
When starting the ride, I could really feel the range of motion being stretched and after the first mile or so I no longer noticed. I am somewhat sore after the long bicycle rides but I ice my knee as soon as I return home.
A year before my surgery my wife booked a cruise. When I made the decision to have TKR I was concerned that I would have enough recovery time before flying and cruising.
In order to travel, I had to endure a 2 hour and 45-minute flight. I was told by my doctor to get up every 45 minutes to walk in the aisle (read my article about flying after knee replacement).
Once I was on the cruise ship, they had everything I needed to continue my exercises, including a first-class fitness center. I walked a lot of stairs and took excursions with no problems. I could have been more conservative in my activities if needed.
If you’re still in pain at the 3-month mark, take some pressure off your joint and start swimming more often (as always, ask your doctor first). Swimming is a low intensity, yet total body workout that will help you:
- Get in cardiovascular shape
- Develop muscle
- Lose weight (if needed)
- Help with flexibility and range of motion
I began swimming a month ago and started off by swimming 12 laps in a 30-meter pool. It wasn’t easy when I started.
I would stop after 4 laps, rest and do some flexion exercises before completing my 12 laps. After 2 weeks I was able to swim 32 laps without stopping at all.
After swimming I would sit in the hot tub for 5 to 10 minutes flexing my knee in the warm water (read my article on using the hot tub after knee replacement). I try to swim every other day or at least 3 times a week.
Activities You Should Expect To Do 3 Months After TKR
- Household chores, cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, mowing the lawn, gardening and washing the car.
- Be careful when standing on a small step-ladder. My balance was a little shaky at first but now it is fine.
- You can expect to go to church and other places where you’ll sit. Be careful to sit in a place/pew where you can stretch your leg.
- Movies should be okay. I sat in the handicap seats in the rear where I could stretch my leg and stand up during the movie.
- 9 holes of golf? I walked the course with a pull-cart. I was sore afterward but iced my knee and felt fine the rest of the day.
- Some people might be able to play pickleball in the 3rd month. I did, but only played 3 games, then rode my bicycle and iced my knee. There was some soreness afterward including upper body muscles because I wasn’t used to the motion.
- Wine tasting? Sure.
- Casino? If you can push and roll, then you can visit a casino.
- July 4th parties
As it turns out, I can do everything I could do before surgery with less pain (in only 3 months).
I do get tired after activity. I feel some soreness and ache at times but no sharp pain (bone-on-bone) like I did pre-surgery. I still take extra precautions to elevate and ice after activity – you should too.
Doctor’s Visit 3 Months Post-Surgery
I had my 3-month check up yesterday. The doctor examined my knee and took X-Rays. He displayed the X-Rays and explained what had taken place since the surgery.
He then displayed the pre-surgery X-Rays next to the post-surgery X-rays and highlighted the separation in my joint, no more bone-on-bone. Wow! I couldn’t believe how good it looked.
He explained the entire procedure again using the X-Rays to point out how they had straightened my leg and prepared the bones for the implant.
He told me about my implant and suggested that I go to hospital records and there they would give me all the specifications on my particular implant as well as a serial number.
He measured my extension and flexion.
I was able to extend my leg completely and my flexion was at 122 degrees. He said they hope for 115 at this time (read my article on flexion and range of motion after knee replacement). He answered all of my questions.
He told me my knee would be somewhat swollen for the first six months and that the surgical knee would feel warmer (5 degrees) for the first year. He surprised me by saying he would see me in a year (one year?!).
What a difference a month makes.
It has been nice to help my wife (caregiver) out with the chores after she did so much for me the first few weeks after surgery. It is also nice to get outside and work in the yard and garden.
It is hard to believe I have resumed my former activities, driven 500 miles, flew on an airplane, and went on a cruise all within the last 4 weeks.
Hard work has paid off for me plus the healing process has been remarkable. I have been surprised that a 67-year-old guy can still heal so quickly. My friends have been surprised by my recovery and have made many encouraging comments. My leg is straight now, no more bow. I still have work to do but I have been encouraged by my progress and it motivates me to continue to work hard at my therapy and exercise.
The results have been amazing and I would encourage you to do your best to work through the pain and complete your formal therapy. No matter your size or athletic ability, continue to exercise on your own.
My knee feels so much better now. There is no longer any pain, just soreness, and some ache after exercise and activity.