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 of 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.

>> Update article: 7 months after knee replacement

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 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.

  3. Hi Ken. I had a TKR back the end of August. I have completed my PT. The therapists said I did well. After about the sixth week, I felt like I was really making good progress. Lately, it seems that the progress has stalled. I continue to walk between 1.5 and 2.0 miles three or four times a week. I ride my bike several miles, several times a week. I continue to do the exercises given to me from the therapists. Sometimes the knee hurts a little bit but, not much.

    My question is, do you still have numbness in the knee area and lower leg and foot? My surgeon said that is normal due to the amount of muscle and nerves they cut thru during the surgery. He stated it will take up to a year for that feeling to subside. The outer side of my knee and my foot feel numb about 50% of the time.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the comment. I was also feeling decent at 6 months but I was told the same thing by my surgeon (it will take a full year to heal). It makes sense to me, TKR is traumatic on the entire leg. Staying active even when it didn’t feel great was important for my recovery and helped keep the joint loose. Glad to hear you’re moving a lot too!

  4. Thankyou for sharing your story, very encouraging. I had my rt tkr done 9/5/19 then at my 6 wk checkup I was told the implant( noncemented) was at an angle and would need to be replaced so on 10/29 I went thru a repeat tkr and new joint was cemented. Very surreal time. Im doing much better now. My biggest problem is my limp. We think it is a habit as I limped before surgery plus mentally it is hard for me to 100% trust my new knee. Im still in therapy plus Im doing everything they ask me to do at home. I actually enjoy riding my recumbent ex bike.

    1. Author

      Sorry to hear about your need for a repeat TKR. Seems like you’re keeping a good outlook. I also spend a lot of time on the bike – low impact and good for stretching the ligaments and muscles around the joint. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Six months out from TKR. Can walk 1.5 to 2 miles. Goal is 3 miles – 5 days a week. Continue stretching. If I overdo, slight pain and soreness. My therapist says I am right on track.

    1. Author

      Seems similar to my experience. Glad to hear you’re staying active and thanks for the comment!

  6. I’m in month 5 of rehab for my right TKR and things are going well. I did my left one (also TKR) about two years ago, so I have a good sense of what to expect and when. Yes, it takes a year to get back to the point where you don’t think about it at all. I got my full range of motion back with a month or so, but with lots of PT and stretching. But it is still sore on some days and nights. Not the knee, but the muscles and tendons around it. Esp the IT band. Just gotta work through it with stretching and strengthening exercises. DON’T lose the faith. You will get back to normal with PT and exercise. But don’t even think about running again. Hiking, walking, golf, skiing all OK. But not running. Hope this helps.

    1. Author

      Good insight and optimism. Thanks for sharing. Wish you continued improvements through the rest of the year!

  7. Had a TKR ( after 6 surgeries over 40 yrs) at the end of Sept. I am happy I have full range of motion and stable, strong joint. Went to PT 3x’s/wk for 4 months.. it’s been a tough recovery. Now I’m concerned that I have lots of swelling , a very tight calf and a tight band across the back of my knee. My PT & massage therapist haven’t had much success with it. I walk an avg of 5 km daily, recumbent bike 1/2 hr a day to build strength and a few band and weight exercises to continue with strengthening. I hope to be back to long hikes, long bike rides and skiing soon!.

    1. Author

      I’ve made stretching and massage a daily routine. The swelling also prevented my full range of motion and I had some swelling up to a year after surgery. I keep icing and elevating the leg and I believe it helps. Thanks for the comment, wishing you continued improvements.

  8. Hi! Your story has been real to me . My left knee was damaged in high school….it has been rough, as a result over the years I have worn out my right knee. My career is a hair stylist…. so I have been on my legs for a lots of hours! I have a family too so being on my feet has been a life style! In my medical world , I had to be in my 60’s before the first surgery which was in 2018 December. The relief was awesome! Did my exercises as told…… but this knee had not been working for at least 40 years. Pain was gone! A year later I have been to surgery for the right knee. Well that knee has been the strong one…. I have been using it for going upstairs as before surgery it hurts less. I have an ankle that was twisted 20years ago that also needs surgery. Soon
    maybe in another year.
    The bottom line has been for me …. do the exercises per- surgery and post-surgery as you are told… yes it’s going to hurt but the gains are much more! Thanks!

    1. Author

      Good to know there are others in a similar situation as me. Glad to hear you’ve achieved success with rehabilitation. I wish you the best with your 2nd knee. Hard work and preparation (usually) pays off. Thanks for the comment!

  9. Fwiw, at least one surgeon (DWard NEBH Boston), who has just completed lower joint 4 of 4 for me, says that the actual endstage plateau — no further changes — is up to 22 mos.

    Certainly this seems to be the case for hip 2 (13 mos) and knee 2 (6 mos), and arguably for knee 1 (19 mos).

    Somehow the last two seem slower than the first two, but that may be my memory and the fact I did not keep a log.

  10. Great article. All the comments have been very helpful. After 9 years of awful pain in my knee’s due to RA & OA I had left knee 9/9/19 then right knee 12/9/19. Did PT which went well. Now I have a tingly feeling in both legs in the area of the replacement. After reading comments feel this is normal. Now feel that I should use my stationary bike more.

    1. Author

      Thanks for reading. Glad the comments could offer a little support. There are so many of us in the same boat.

  11. Well, I’m so happy to have stumbled upon this post! I am 6 months post TKR and had to stop going to the last 2 weeks of PT because of COVID-19 shut down. I put off TKR for too long – should have done it years ago, but I was afraid of the unknown. I’m happy to report the following: I could put full weight on both knees starting day 1. I could do stairs -with a crutch before leaving the hospital. The pain wasn’t intolerable, but I did use the pain meds – as prescribed and by week 3, I was using them primarily pre-exercise or to help with sleep. I prepped well before surgery – I loss weight, gained muscle and strengthend my core (water aerobics helped considerably). I allowed myself time to heal mentally. Thanks for the recommendation about new shoes…..while i didn’t purposefully do this, I am noticing that I walk much better in my post TKR athletic shoes than the pre TKR ones . Thanks also for the honesty about being cognizant about your walking form. It’s so easy to limp and favor another side -especially since that’s how we’ve walked for so long. The only thing I need to do better is “ice the knee” after exercising. I also missed out on getting the “ice machine” post operation. Thanks so much for your article and all these wonderful comments and follow-ups

  12. Hi Ken,
    Googled 5 then 6 months after surgery just to compare my experience to assure I was progressing as “normally “ as possible. We seem to have the same progressions, so thanks.
    I thank God for a successful surgery and the most awesome orthopedic doctor around!

    Had my surgery at 64.5 yrs old with bone-on-bone, arthritis, meniscus tear, bowed leg, extreme swelling and pain for about 5-6 years before I gave in to surgery. Tried my best to avoid it. Sorry I waited now that I can walk normally again!

    It’s been 5.5 months and the only thing I don’t do is kneel completely on that knee because of the numbness that’s still there.
    Swelling is down to 1 inch larger than my other knee. I do lunges and basically any exercise I desire that doesn’t include kneeling.

    I walked into therapy with no cane or limp after 2 weeks of in home pt but it was hard at first and painful. Pressing on, improvement was fast. I used an ice machine, supplied by the hospital, faithfully. Used Scar X and vitamin e alternately and my knee looks great. Used silicone scar sheets for the prominent incision point to diminish the raised darker scar. It worked.

    The only symptom I seem to still deal with mostly is numbness next to the incision point and in 2 of my toes. I can feel it slowly lessening but that’s taking time because of the nerves that were severed. Time heals all wounds.

    Honestly, prayer is the essential ingredient that my doctor and I used before and after surgery! Made all the difference. Blessings to all.

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