swimming after knee replacement (tips and experience)

Swimming After Knee Replacement Surgery (My Experience and Tips)

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Swimming is a great exercise for everyone. Because it’s a low-impact exercise, you can continue swimming for a lifetime.

Swimming builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. Swimming can also help you maintain a healthy weight and a healthy heart and lungs.

In this article, I will share my experiences in the pool after surgery. You may be wondering when you can get in the pool after surgery.

You may also be concerned about how to design a workout post surgery. I will share my experience swimming post TKR and hopefully, it will help to answer some of your questions.

Note:

One of the few pain-free activities that I could do before TKR was to swim laps. Not all swimming strokes were pain-free for me but I could do the breaststroke and the freestyle without pain.

Swimming can be a big part of your pre-surgery preparation and it can build up the muscles around your knee prior to surgery and make it easier to recover after your surgery. Check out my prior article on my pre-surgery swimming routine.

When Was I Cleared To Swim After Knee Replacement

Since I had been swimming on a regular basis (3 times a week) before my TKR, I was anxious to get back into the pool.

My doctor gave me the okay on week five, post-TKR.

He wanted all the scabs to be gone and he wanted to make sure that there was no opening on the wound at all. When he gave me the “all clear” he told me I could swim in a pool, the ocean, or a lake.

I could also use the hot tub. After swimming for two weeks, I had an internal stitch come to the surface that broke the skin and the doctor told me to refrain from swimming until it scabbed over and the entire scab disappeared. I was unable to swim for about a week.

If you have not been swimming before your surgery I suggest that you buy a good pair of goggles. I recommend these popular Speedo goggles on Amazon.

My First Day Swimming After TKR (How It Felt and Pain)

I was very tentative the first day that I entered the pool. I was afraid to kick hard during both the breaststroke and the freestyle stroke.

I decided to walk a few laps first, marching with high steps. After a few walking laps I tried swimming a breaststroke. My range of motion was increasing daily (read more about my range of motion and goals) but the surgical knee did not bend and kick as well as my non-surgical knee.

When I got in the pool, I started with small flutter kicks while holding onto the side of the pool.  To my surprise, there was no pain. I then tried the freestyle stroke with no pain. My cardio fitness was sorely lacking and I was only able to swim four laps at a time and then I had to rest for 30 seconds to a minute.

While resting, I did leg extensions and leg flexion and ankle pumps and circles.

After two weeks, swimming 3 times a week, I was able to swim 32 laps without stopping to rest (about a half mile) pain-free.

Swimming Techniques (Breaststroke, Backstroke etc.) After Knee Replacement

As I mentioned above, the breaststroke was a bit awkward at first because the surgical knee was not flexing on the kick as well as the non-surgical knee. I was still going to therapy and working on my range of motion at this point.

The freestyle stroke was very comfortable and I was able to swim with ease. As time went by I tried the backstroke, which had caused me a lot of pain pre-knee replacement surgery.

I started off with small flutter kicks again and to my amazement, there was no pain. I was also able to do flutter kicks both on my back and stomach without any pain. As time went by and my range of motion I was able to kick much better when doing the breaststroke (you can read more about techniques on this swimming pool website).

swimming after tkr surgery

Courtesy of swimminglessons.com.sg

Best Exercises For Swimming After TKR

If you are not used to swimming I would suggest you get into the pool as soon as possible and begin walking, marching and water jogging. Try flutter kicking on your stomach and back holding on to the edge of the pool.

Next, you may want to use a kickboard and begin flutter-kicking laps before using specific strokes. As soon as you can, try to swim one lap at a time until you can swim multiple laps.

>>check out my article on advanced exercises after TKR

The freestyle stroke was the easiest beginning stroke for me. While resting, work on your range of motion in the water and also work on extensions. I even did ankle pumps and ankle circles between laps early on.

Conclusion

Whether you have had TKR or not, swimming is a great exercise. If you know you are going to have TKR, start swimming as part of your pre-surgery exercise program.

Swimming has so many health benefits especially for seniors who may no longer be able to participate in high impact activities. Get in the pool as soon as your doctor gives you the okay.

Start out walking, marching and jogging and transition to swimming a lap at a time. I am no longer able to play basketball or jog but I can see myself swimming and biking for many years to come.

Swimming can be a lifetime activity. I hope this article has encouraged you to develop a swimming routine before and after TKR surgery. It has been an important part of my recovery.

Thank you for reading my blog. Check out the homepage for more of my experience!