6 months after knee replacement - pain - progress

6 Months After TKR Surgery (Update On Pain Level, Progress, Observations)

Each month I’ve shared my progress with knee replacement recovery.  Each month I’ve made progress and I must say, I’m feeling good.

In this article, I’ll share my update 6 months after knee replacement surgery. I continue to be pleased with my progress.

My knee is stronger and feels stronger each month and I experience less pain. I continue to be conscientious about my rehabilitation because I’ve experienced positive results from my consistent hard work.

It would be easy to quit doing exercise and be satisfied with the way my knee functions but each month it feels more stable, stronger, and my range of motion continues to increase, albeit slowly. I am able to exercise and participate in my favorite activities pain-free.

Pain Level 6 Months After Knee Replacement

Before knee replacement surgery, I felt pain with every step I took. The bone on bone pain was always there.

Now, there is no bone on bone pain. I do feel some soreness around the knee after exercise; especially after the longer hikes. I’ve read that the knee will take a full year to improve.

A few times I’ve overdone it (15 to 20-mile bike rides, 10-mile hikes) and the soreness and swelling remain for a couple of days. There really is no pain inside the knee, just soreness and some achiness around the knee.

While I’m engaged in everyday activities, I experience little pain and I don’t need to favor the knee (for example, walking downstairs). I can feel the clicking in my knee when going up steps or hiking up hills.

The clicking is a strange feeling but occurs without pain.

How I’m Walking

I find myself walking “normally” now without having to think about each step. Prior to knee replacement surgery, I walked with a limp and with my right foot pointed several degrees to the right.

I ask my wife to watch me on beach walks and on walks around the neighborhood and to let me know if I am walking correctly. Early on she noticed some inconsistency but as of late she comments that I walk very normal and that I no longer lean to one side when walking.

Prior to TKR, I was experiencing some pain in the hip of my “good” leg after hikes and extended walks. I know that when limping and going downhill I put more stress on my good leg.

Now I have no pain in the hip at all. Before TKR I also had pain in my ankle, probably from walking incorrectly. Now, after 6 months there’s no pain in my ankle.

Concentrating on walking correctly and wearing new shoes that were not worn helped correct my walking pattern. Remember to toss old worn shoes and start with a few new pairs of shoes (I recommend these shoes for walking after TKR).

Remember, it’s not only your knee that will feel better after knee replacement.  If you’ve been walking with a limp your alignment might be off and could cause pain in other parts of the body, just as it did for me.

Range Of Motion 6 Months After TKR

Riding a stationary bike or taking 6 to 10-mile rides on my bike helps me to maintain my knee’s range of motion. You can adjust the seat on both the stationary bike and on a traditional bike to force the knee to bend while pedaling.

If I don’t ride my bike for a few days it takes me a while to make pedal rotations that are comfortable. My range of motion is still increasing but very slowly.

I also continue to do my range of motion exercises 3 to 4 times a week that my physical therapist recommended.

While driving, I’m still careful to stop and stretch my legs every 45 minutes to an hour. When I have had to sit in the back seat of a friend’s car for an extended time and unable to get out of the car periodically to stretch, my knee stiffens up.

It is a bit hard to get out of the car and it takes a few minutes for it to loosen up. I have taken 3 plane flights including a cross-country trip in the US and a 15-hour flight abroad. I get up out of my seat every 45 minutes and take a walk and stretch.

Thankfully, I’ve had no problems to date when flying (learn when you can fly after TKR).

Has My TKR Recovery Plateaued

As far as the range of motion is concerned I feel like I’m starting to plateau. When I measure my range of motion each month the increase has only been a degree or two if any.

I still have to build up the muscles of my calf, quadriceps, and hamstrings. I’m working hard in the fitness center using leg machines for strength to supplement my bike riding and swimming.

My good leg is still larger than my surgical knee but I feel like I’m making progress.

How Does My Knee Look

My knee is still swollen but it is improving each month and looking more like the shape of a knee. Before TKR my knee was always swollen, mushy (fluid), and without shape. My doctor said it would be swollen for the first year but I feel like the swelling has decreased significantly and it’s beginning to look like my other knee after 6 months.

After strenuous activity, my knee swells a little bit so I continue to ice and elevate my knee. I often take a Tylenol type product before and after strenuous activity.

My goal is to have matching legs eventually – for the first time in many years.

Tips For People Struggling 6 Months After Knee Replacement

Keeping weight off has been an important part of my recovery. I am exercising more than I did before surgery for two reasons.

  1. I want my knee to continue to improve
  2. I am able to exercise and do activities that are no longer painful. I’m enjoying exercise more than before surgery.

The less weight you carry, the less stress you’ll put on your new knee as well as the other parts of your body. If you are struggling with your recovery and not making the progress you had expected, I’d encourage you to consult your physician and or your physical therapist.

Conclusion

I’m pleased with my progress 6 months after knee replacement surgery. I am able to exercise, bike, hike, swim and play pickleball without pain.

I can garden and do everyday chores also without pain. When I kneel I always use a foam pad but it is much easier to get up and down now after my surgery.

Simple tasks like putting my socks and shoes on, washing my feet in the shower and balancing on one leg while dressing are much easier for me. My knee is stronger than it has been in many years and it is also much more stable.

I would advise others to work hard at your rehab even after 6 months. The more I exercise, the better my knee feels. Thankfully it’s much easier to exercise now without the constant pain. I hope your recovery is going well.

Comments

  1. When you say you exercise…do you do weights, barbells & weighted machines, boxing? Can you run? My surg is in 28 days.. I’m scared…I love doing all the things I listed above and hope I can do them after tkr and more!

    1. Author

      It depends on the length of time after surgery. After 6 months I’m doing everything (and more) I could do prior to surgery. Exercise is up to your doctor, physical therapist, and how you feel. I use weighted machines for leg and upper body strength. I swim, I walk, I hike, sail, bike, golf. Not running though.

    1. Author

      Mine was medial, lateral, and anterior early on. Made the joint stiff. Not much in the rear. Seemed to be more swelling near the incision. Now, months after surgery I get minor swelling after long days of activity/sports, anterior. There was definitely tightness around the joint early on, and especially after workouts (the following day). Firm massage and elevation helped me.

  2. Knee was doing well after 6 months then seemed to backtrack. Now it hurts when I walk and sometimes just when lying in bed. Other knee is perfect after TKR. Using an exercise bike every day….no improvement. Getting worried. PA took an EXray and said everything looks good. Gave me muscle relaxers to take.

    1. Author

      Yes, that is disconcerting. Muscle relaxers imply muscle/ligament/tendon tightness. Maybe yoga, swimming, or some type of stretching would be beneficial? In my experience, my newly aligned knee did create tightness on my ligaments and muscles around the joint…loosening these up with stretching has helped me.

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