Pre and Post Knee Replacement Surgery – Activity Expectations

(I may earn a small commission from the products mentioned in this post.)

If you’re considering knee replacement surgery, you might be wondering about your activity level after surgery.

  • What will you be able to do after TKR?
  • Will you be able to do all the same activities you could do before surgery?
  • Will the activities you enjoy be painful?

I don’t know your specific situation. Each person will be different.

  • Some people will have two knee replacements while others will only have one.
  • Some people will be battling other health issues as well that may affect their recovery.
  • Some people will be young TKR patients and bounce back quickly while others, like me, will be seniors.

I hope my experience and activity level pre and post knee replacement surgery provides you with the insight you need to better understand your situation.

Let’s get started!

Overview

I was active before my knee replacement surgery. Unfortunately, the activities that I could participate in caused me a great deal of pain (read about why I decided to have knee replacement).

I could push through the pain but I’d always have swelling after the activity. I usually took an ibuprofen type pill before any prolonged exercise and then I would know that I would have to ice my knee and take another pill after exercise.

All that has changed now that I’m 8 months post surgery. Things are good!

Exercise Routine

Pre-TKR

Before my TKR surgery I was not able to go to a gym or fitness center and do a wide range of activities. When I did go to the fitness center I concentrated on upper body workouts.

I was able to use the stationary bike and the elliptical machines. Leg machines were painful and always made a crunching sound in my knee (due to lost cartilage in my knee).

Squats were out of the question as well as many stretching exercises with my right leg.

Post-TKR

I now visit my fitness center 3 to 4 times a week. I continue to use the plan developed by my offsite physical therapist and I continually add more repetitions and new exercises that I am learning.

I am pain free during my exercise and I no longer need to ice my knee after workouts. Don’t limit your rehab and recovery to the time that you spend with a physical therapist (check out my full recovery routine here).

Develop a plan with your physical therapist before your sessions end so that you can continue working out on your own.

Swimming

Pre-TKR

After many years of pain in my knee I gave up other activities and began swimming 3 to 4 times a week. I could do the freestyle stroke and the breaststroke with minimal pain.

Other strokes especially the backstroke caused a great deal of pain in my knee when kicking so my workouts were limited to the breaststroke and the freestyle. I only pushed off the wall with my good leg after each lap because if I used the right leg it was painful.

Fins were out of the question as they caused pain and made the same crunching noise when I used leg machines in the fitness center.

Post-TKR

Now I’m able to swim using multiple strokes and I can push off with both legs. I can use fins in the pool and I can do flutter kicks both on my stomach and on my back holding on to the edge of the pool or when using a kickboard (here is my detailed swim routine after surgery).

Bicycling

Pre-TKR

Bicycling was not something I did a lot prior to having knee problems. When I was in my twenties I would ride my bike around town occasionally instead of taking the car.

As time went by, bicycling was one of the few things that I could do pain free. If I went long periods of time between rides, my knee would stiffen up and it would take me 5 or 10 minutes to loosen up so that I could pedal with my right leg the full range of motion.

Post-TKR

Now I’m able to ride several miles 3 to 4 times a week and my range of motion allows me to pedal from the get-go. I occasionally take rides from 10 to 20 miles.

After the longer rides I have sore muscles, but no knee pain.

Pickle-ball

Pre-TKR

I began playing pickle-ball in my early 60’s. Until my TKR I had a noticeable limp when I approached the net and I was very limited moving to my right side.

If I played too many games in a row my knee would swell and I would need to apply ice when I got home. I play doubles pickle-ball and it is a great way to make new friends.

You usually play with a different person each game.

Post-TKR

I now can play 5 games of pickle-ball in a row without any swelling. I no longer limp during the game and I can now cover more of the court than I ever could.

Pickle-ball is the only activity that I am involved in that requires quick reactions and reflexes. Unlike golf, where your mind wanders, pickle-ball keeps you concentrated on the game and allows you to forget all the things that are on your mind.

If I didn’t play pickle-ball, a good substitute might be table tennis.

Golf

Pre-TKR

I am an occasional golfer and prefer to play nine holes versus 18. I use a pull-cart and prefer to walk the short course.

Before TKR, it was very painful to walk and I would need to ice my knee after a nine-hole round.

Post-TKR

Now I walk and play a 12 hole course near my house once or twice a month pain-free.

My knee is more stable and I have a better swing because I can now push off of my right leg.

Hiking

Pre-TKR

I didn’t begin hiking on a regular basis until I was in my forties. I joined a hiking club that hikes 5 to 10 miles twice a week.

Early on I did fine but as I aged I began to limp, have trouble going downhill and my knee often swelled up.

I enjoyed hiking and getting outdoors but in my sixties I avoided the longer hikes and only did the five-mile hikes.

Post-TKR

Now, I can hike 5 to 10 miles without pain or swelling. The nice thing about hiking is that you can hike alone or with a group and you can choose the distance and terrain that you want to hike on.

I also enjoy walking on the beach now barefoot for a few miles once a week.

Yoga

I just started a 30-day Yoga program with my wife. I can tell that I’m stretching and strengthening places on my body (joints) that I haven’t stretched in a long time.

This is a first for me and I will write an article after my 30-day trial.

Conclusion

In this article, I have mentioned some of the activities that I can do pain free after my TKR. Even though I could do the same activities before TKR, most of the activities caused me pain and swelling in my knee.

I now enjoy those same activities more and I am able to perform at a higher level.

I have mentioned the activities that I enjoy but you can look forward to being pain-free, with no swelling and limping when you participate in your favorite activities. If your surgery and recovery goes smoothly you should be active in 3-4 months.

I hope this article has encouraged you. After knee replacement surgery and your recovery, I hope you can enjoy everyday activities and other physical activity with minimal or no pain.

Comments

  1. I am just 5 weeks post TKR, I have done 4 full marathons and at least 30 half marathons but the last five years I haven’t been able to walk not even a mile. I am hoping to be able to get active again. Thank you for sharing your routine with others. Therapy will be over in one week and I am planning to continue going to the gym at least 4 days a week

    1. Author

      Can’t recommend enough to continue therapy/exercise on your own even if you’re cleared by your doc/therapist. The biggest improvements came in the first 2-3 months, but I still had gradual improvements over months 4-12 and I think self-therapy helped with that.

  2. I am now 4 weeks post kr and was so excited to be able to push mow my lawn yesterday. The simple things. I am still only 125 range of motion but I get stronger and more flexible every day thru PT and at home exercises. I have been an active person my whole life and feel like I‘ve been given a second lease. It’s been a bumpy 4 weeks pain wise but I can safely say I’m happy I did it and would recommend it to anyone that has reached that pain level. My advice is to get ready prior by exercising your bad knee as much as possible, and lose weight to a manageable level. The docs do their parts we have to do ours and take PT seriously.

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