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Running is a good aerobic activity, but should you run after knee replacement surgery? Unlike other aerobic activities, running has a high impact on the body.
Running or jogging can cause strain and stress on your knee replacement. Most doctors, including my own, will say that running and jogging is possible after TKR, however they would not recommend either activity.
Joint replacement and the recovery process that follows is not easy, especially for weight bearing joints like the knee.
This article will look at the pros and cons of running and jogging after knee surgery and I’ll share my experience with running and jogging.
Can You Run With A Knee Replacement?
The answer is yes; most people can run or jog after total knee replacement surgery (should you? that is another question entirely).
Make sure to understand the pros and cons of deciding to run or jog after surgery. You will need to make a wise decision after consulting with your doctor, physical therapist, and any appropriate literature.
Although it’s possible to run and jog, these activities are probably not a wise decision for most people who have undergone knee replacement.
If you’re like me, you may have been a life-long runner or jogger and you miss the fun and the workout (read my article about flying after knee replacement).
I enjoyed running much of my life and I ran for decades on a knee without cartilage (pre-knee replacement). It was painful to run, but I loved it and continued for a long time.
After careful consideration, you may feel the advantages of returning to running or jogging outweigh the disadvantages. Ultimately the decision is for you and your doctor.
Pros of Returning to Running or Jogging after Knee Replacement Surgery
- Running and jogging are both great aerobic exercises that allow you to get outdoors and enjoy nature while participating in a healthy activity.
- A sedentary lifestyle can lead to more bodyweight and additional strain and stress on your knee.
- TKR was once reserved primarily for older patients with severe arthritic pain. They were often told to wait until the pain was unbearable before having a total knee replacement. This is no longer the case. Younger, healthier people are now having TKR surgery. Younger patients usually have faster recoveries and are willing to work hard with their physical therapist and in the weight room so that they can return to their favorite activities (read my advice for TKR for younger patients).
- The materials and surgical techniques have evolved in the last few years. The durability of knee replacements has improved and they can handle more stress than the early knee replacements.
- New running equipment, especially shoes and knee braces can help absorb the shock to your knee while running or jogging (my article on the best shoes after knee replacement). Running technology that helps you with proper form can also be an asset.
- Running and jogging can allow you to participate in sports that require both running and jogging like tennis, softball and even basketball (if you like sports you are probably wanting to get back on the courts).
Cons of Returning to Running or Jogging
- Age is a major consideration when you are thinking about returning to activities after knee replacement surgery. The older you are, your health and body weight may exclude running and jogging after TKR. It may be time to find alternative activities more age-appropriate.
- It is important to understand that running or jogging on a knee replacement does carry risk. If an artificial knee becomes damaged or becomes loose, it will have to be replaced or “corrected”. Second knee replacement surgeries are often more complicated and have a lower success rate.
- There are not many studies on jogging and running after knee replacement, especially with the latest advances in materials and surgical procedures.
- Recovery from knee replacement takes time. If you plan to run or jog, it may take even more time and hard work post TKR.
- Bad form or too much weight (overweight) on the joint can injure even the healthiest of runners.
My Experience Running and Jogging After Knee Replacement
After talking with my doctor, I decided running and jogging was not for me. As I mentioned before, my doctor told me I could jog but that he wouldn’t recommend it.
I have found alternative exercises and activities that can keep me healthy and active.
I have tried running and jogging for short distances both on the grass and on the flat wet sand at the beach. As long as I jog very slowly, I have not experienced any pain.
I have decided that for me the risks do not outweigh any advantages of running or jogging.
I prefer to swim, cycle, hike and use aerobic machines at the fitness center. These activities keep me active and keep my muscles strong, without the wear and tear caused by running.
If you don’t want to get wet or ride a bike, a popular exercise machine is the Eliptical machine – it offers a great cardiovascular workout and is easy on your joints.
Take your physical therapy seriously. Strong muscles protect the joints they surround.
One thing I learned was to not rush into any activity, including running or jogging, after knee replacement. It takes months for your bone to fully heal and it took about a year for minor swelling in my knee to subside.
Remember, consult your surgeon and your physical therapist about any activity.
Consider the pros and cons to determine which sports and activities are right for you. Consider your overall health, your age, and your weight before making decisions.
Listen to your body and make a wise decision whether running and jogging after knee replacement are right for you.