8 months after knee replacement surgery

8 Months After Total Knee Replacement (My Rehab)

Eight months (279 days) have passed since my TKR surgery.  The days following my surgery went by slowly as I recovered during the first month.

I wondered if I had made the right decision. The majority of my day was dedicated to physical therapy.

These days, time seems to be flying by and I think much less about my knee. Exercise and activity remain a big part of my day but it’s far more enjoyable.

During the early days of my recovery, when I was sitting on my recliner reading and doing crossword puzzles, the only scheduled part of my day was the 3 sessions of physical therapy. I began with 3 weeks of home physical therapy then transition to offsite therapy 3 times a week.

I’m definitely back to my pre-surgery routine with exercise, scheduled activities, traveling and day-to-day chores.  Many of my friends and acquaintances that have had TKR discontinued their rehab after their formal physical therapy was complete.

I have continued my exercises and the routine is not a burden. In this article I’ll bring you up to date on my activities and exercise routine.

My goal is to eventually having two matching legs again (in regards to muscle mass and strength).

Eight Months Ago and Now

Immediately after TKR you’ll develop a routine of exercise with the help of your physical therapist. As I mentioned in previous articles, it is much easier to stay focused when the physical therapist is with you and encouraging you (check out my therapy workout right after surgery).

Once you are on your own, the self-discipline needs to kick in. We tend to get lazy with the physical therapy once we’re able to move around on our own.

  • Eight months ago I was not able to do some of the exercises (leg lifts, leg presses, etc.) and other activities because the pain and grinding in my knee was unbearable.
  • Everyday activities like walking and going up and down stairs caused me severe pain.
  • My range of motion exercises were limited to riding a stationary bike or a traditional bike.

Getting In An Exercise Routine And Sticking With It

Once you no longer meet with a physical therapist, it is important to continue a rehab routine on your own.

Don’t stop exercising.

Just because your insurance company says that physical therapy is no longer needed, take what you have learned and then develop a physical therapy program of your own (this is my routine that I’ve stuck with).

Set some goals, specifically for range of motion and continue to measure your leg to see if your muscle mass is increasing. As you heal, you will be able to do daily chores and resume pre-surgery commitments.

Your daily schedule will begin to fill up. It is important to carve out time to continue your therapy. For me, it was a priority and I had to cut back and eliminate a few of my pre-surgery activities.

My rehab moved up to the top of my list of things that are important.

Eight Months After TKR – My Rehab Plan

Swimming

I try to swim at least 3 times a week. I swim 40 freestyle laps in a 30-meter pool (It took several months to work up to 40 laps). After the laps, I swim another 10 laps using a kickboard, five laps on my stomach and 5 on my back.

Some days after my 40 laps I will put on flippers and do the same. Before my surgery I could not use flippers because the pain was unbearable (read my article on swimming workouts for knee replacement).

I was also unable to use them when snorkeling. Now when I use flippers there is no pain in the knee. Recently I went on a day snorkelling tour in Australia and it was the first time in many years that I could snorkel with flippers – pain free!

Bike Riding

I try to ride my bike for 10 miles every other day, weather permitting. (I started off with 4 to 5 miles and now have worked my way up). I began riding around the neighborhood but now I ride out into the country where there is little traffic and beautiful scenery.

I enjoy getting outside and experiencing nature as opposed to sitting on a stationary bike in the fitness center. However, the stationary bike comes in handy on cold, windy or rainy days.  Depending on the time of year you have your surgery, a stationary bike might be best – especially starting out.

I also use the stationary bike to warm up at the fitness center for 10 to 20 minutes before I begin my other leg exercises. I would highly recommend padded bike shorts to make your ride more comfortable.

A helmet is a must.

I also use an app on my cell phone to measure the distance of my rides.

Fitness Center

I try and work out at our local fitness center at least 3 times a week concentrating on my surgical knee and leg. I work on strengthening the muscles and supporting structures around my knee.

As I’ve mentioned before, my upper leg muscles and my calf were significantly smaller than my healthy leg and that my goal is to work hard until I have two matching legs.

Below I’ll share my routine. Everyone will have to do what they feel comfortable with so if you’re just starting out you should expect to do less repetitions (it took me a long time to work up to these exercises).

I start off on the stationary bike.

After 10 to 20 minutes I move to the leg press and do 80 repetitions, 20 at four different angles.

Next I use the leg lift machine with only my surgical leg and do 30 repetitions of 30 pounds twice (I started with 5 pounds and now I am using 30 pounds).

Next I do the same with the hamstring curls machine.

I move to the captain’s chair and do 2 sets of both bent knee leg raises and straight leg raises.

I then use a Number 4 band that I hook to a stationary surface and do 30 extensions and 30 pulls.

Next I do 2 sets of 15 squats using a large stationary ball wedged against a wall.

Next I do 2 sets of 20 calf raisers with both legs and then 1 set of 20 using only my right leg.

I then stretch each leg 3 times for 30 seconds before I head for the pool or the hot tub.

Other Activities 8 Months After Knee Replacement

When I am not traveling, I’m playing pickle-ball. I am much more mobile compared to pre-surgery and I can move side to side and up and back much easier.

I hike several miles twice a month and I walk on the beach. I’m able to do these activities without the bone on bone pain I once experienced. It’s a big relief.

Standing for long periods of time used to be painful, now I can play catch with my grandchildren for 20 minutes at a time.

I still am not real comfortable standing in line for long periods of time. It’s nice when I am assigned TSA pre-check at the airport (wondering about flying with a knee replacement).

Conclusion

I have seen amazing progress over the eight months since I’ve had my TKR surgery. I must emphasize that I have worked hard and have tried to stick to a rigorous routine of exercise and activity.

Don’t stop your rehab once your formal physical therapy is over. Ask your therapist to help you develop exercises and activities that you can continue on your own.

Fitness center visits can be boring for me but I try to supplement those visits with activities that I enjoy. Set goals for your rehab and constantly monitor your development.

Rehab can take several months.

I plan to continue to rehab and stay fit for the rest of my life. I see the rehab as an ongoing process and something everyone, at every activity level can improve upon.

I hope this article has given you some ideas to help you design and implement your own rehab after physical therapy. Work hard and I’m confident you’ll see results.

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