Pre and Post Knee Replacement Surgery – Activity Expectations

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.

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