In this article I will talk about my experiences walking after TKR surgery. I will begin with my first walk 4 hours after my surgery and continue sharing my experiences walking during the first two weeks post surgery. I had a few questions for my physical therapist that included?
- How much should you walk after surgery?
- How far should you walk after knee replacement surgery?
I began walking with a walker, transitioned to walking poles, then one walking pole and finally to walking on my own without support. I was surprised that my medical team had me up walking so fast.
During my first walk I felt like I would need the walker for a long period of time. This wasn’t the case as I made steady progress until I was able to walk without any support.
Walking The Day of Knee Replacement
Four hours after the surgery and two hours after leaving the recovery room a physical therapist came in to my room and got me on my feet. After disconnecting the air and ice cuffs she had me stand up next to my bed with the aid of a walker.
She showed me some simple exercises to do while standing. Since I did not have a catheter she asked me if I would walk to the bathroom for the first time.
My son rolled my IV’s next to me and I walked (shuffled) a short distance to the bathroom. It took a few minutes for me to complete the task of urinating standing up.
I then walked back to my bed. I did not feel any pain during this first walk as I was heavily medicated. It was a slow walk.
I didn’t have good balance and I relied on the walker for support. My leg felt very tight. There was a great deal of swelling and the doctor had repositioned my leg that had begun to bow inward over the years.
Once in bed the staff reconnected the air and ice cuffs. My entire leg was very swollen after surgery so it was hard to tell if this first walk added to the swelling.
Walking The Day After Knee Replacement (and getting home)
The morning after my surgery was my second opportunity to walk. My IV’s were no longer attached and with the walker I walked to the bathroom and back to the bed where the physical therapist was waiting to take me on a short walk down the hall.
I walked down the hall by four adjacent rooms and turned around and walked back to my room. The physical therapist congratulated me on my success and said she would be back later in the morning to give me a stair test.
When she returned she gave me the choice of walking with the walker or riding in a wheel chair. I opted to walk. It turned out to be a longer walk, about 50 yards each way.
When I arrived at the physical therapy office there was a set of 4 stairs to walk up and down. She explained the technique I should use: good leg up first going up and bad leg first going down with a tight grip on the rail.
I completed the task successfully and walked back to my room about ten o’clock. At noon I had my next opportunity to walk.
It was a short walk to the wheel chair that would take me out to the car waiting to take me home. At the car I used the walker to help position myself for entry in to the car.
When I arrived at my home I used the walker to go from the garage to my recliner in the living room. After arriving home that first day I only got up with the walker to use the bathroom.
Walking The First Week After TKR – At Home
My first two days home I relied heavily on my walker. I put the majority of my weight on my arms and on my good leg walking very gingerly with my surgical knee.
This was my first experience with a walker. I had used crutches for 6 months when I was in my twenties. The big difference is that you don’t put any weight on your surgical knee with crutches.
With a walker you are encouraged to put weight on the surgical knee. On the 3rd day post surgery I had my first visit from my home therapist.
She encouraged me to put more weight on the surgical knee and to walk heel to toe and to push off with my toes.
She also encouraged me to take multiple short walks in the house with my walker. For the next 3 days I followed her advice.
I walked frequently and was concentrating on good technique. She returned 3 days later.
After the therapy session she had me walk in the house with a cane and with a hiking pole. She told me that it was time (day 5 after surgery) to transition to either a cane or hiking pole.
I could feel a big difference on my knee if I wore soft soled athletic shoes. Shoes give cushion and I began to wear shoes as soon as possible to take some of the stress off my knee. I wrote about the best shoes to wear after knee replacement here.
Walking the Second Week After Knee Replacement Surgery
By the second week I switched from the walker to using two walking poles (pictured right).
After my third home therapy session my therapist began taking me on walks outside the house. During my first walk outside (8 days post surgery) I used a walking pole.
The walking poles were extremely helpful for balance and allowed me to support my legs by putting some weight on my arms. You can check out my article on the best walking poles after knee replacement here.
I walked down my driveway and on to the sidewalk for about 50 yards and then turned around and walked back to the house. The therapist walked behind me encouraging me not to limp and to work on good technique.
During this first walk I relied heavily on my poles. My balance was a little shaky but I took my time and completed the task.
I was still taking the pain medication so the walking was not painful. She told me that I was to continue outside walking after each of my 3 daily workouts.
My walking followed my therapy workouts and my knee swelled from the workout and the walking. After walking I immediately elevated my leg and applied ice. This routine continued throughout the first two weeks after my surgery.
Recommended Products for Walking After Knee Replacement
I would highly recommend that you have a walker in your hospital room from the get-go. The hospital provided a walker for me. I assume I was billed for it.
Without the walker, I could not have gotten out of bed so soon. I needed it to use the bathroom and to take the walking and stair tests that allowed me to go home (my article about 7 things you need after knee replacement).
The cane felt just as comfortable as the walking pole. The reason I chose to transition from the walker to the walking pole was that I had two walking poles and I didn’t have a cane. If I had a cane I may have opted for it.
I soon learned that walking was an important part of my recovery process. 45 years ago after knee surgery I was put in a soft cast for six weeks and used crutches.
Medical advances have changed dramatically. This time I was encouraged to walk on the day of surgery. Each day I was encouraged to walk more and to put weight on the surgical knee.
I was also encouraged to bend the knee when I walked and to use good walking technique. I recommend that you have a walker waiting in your hospital room.
Buy or borrow a cane or hiking poles before surgery. When you make the transition from the walker try both a hiking pole and cane and see which is most comfortable for you. Be prepared to walk from day one. You will be surprised how rapidly you will progress.