If you’ve lived with the pain and physical limitations of knee arthritis, and then made the decision to undergo a total knee replacement, you are probably ready to reap the benefits of the past few months. Anyone with knee arthritis understands how much it can affect your ability to enjoy life, and to do the things you want to do. So, now that you’ve taken the steps necessary to take back your life, let’s take a look at what you should do, what you probably shouldn’t do, and most importantly what you can do. It’s definitely time to get back to living!
What You Should Do
If you’ve recently recovered from total knee replacement surgery, you have probably completed 2 to 3 months of physical therapy and are performing a regular exercise regimen. Now is not the time to slow down and become sedentary. The benefits of appropriate levels of physical activity are numerous for the health of your new joint, as well as for your overall well-being.
It is recommended that everyone, whether they’ve had knee replacement surgery or not, should get 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days per week. After recovering from surgery, this will have even greater benefits for you. The first thing this will do is to help you keep off any extra weight. Being overweight is known to contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It will also put unnecessary stress on all of your joints, including your new knee joint. Now that you’ve undergone total knee replacement surgery, you don’t want to revert to a lifestyle that may have contributed to your arthritis in the first place, so it is highly recommended that you eat a well-balanced diet and keep moving. Walking regularly is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and for your knees. Other low to moderate activities that you might consider are swimming, dancing, and cycling.
In addition to aerobic activities, weight training within moderation can also improve your overall bone and joint health. Weight-bearing exercises help to promote strong, healthy bones. It is also important to keep the muscles that support your knees strong. However, before embarking on any new exercise program, you should discuss your plans with your orthopedic surgeon so that you don’t do anything that could be harmful to your new knee joint. Additionally, as in any good exercise program, don’t forget to do things that improve your flexibility. Yoga is a great activity, but avoid overstretching and twisting motions, and be sure to keep your knees aligned with your hips and ankles.
What You Shouldn’t Do
The first rule of thumb as you begin your new life with a healthy knee joint is “when in doubt, ask your orthopedic surgeon.” If you have any concerns that your plans might include something that could injure your knee, it is better to be safe than sorry. And if anything that you are doing hurts, stop the activity and report it to your orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist. Generally speaking, most orthopedic surgeons will discourage high impact activities such as running and jumping for anyone that has had a knee replacement. This is because high impact activities may damage your new joint and may decrease the number of years your new joint will last. These are the same reasons orthopedic surgeons typically will not recommend that you participate in certain sports that may involve high impact movements or contact, such as football, singles tennis or basketball. However, every individual is different and your lifestyle prior to your knee replacement surgery may have some bearing on what you and your orthopedic surgeon may agree is appropriate for you. So once, again, you should discuss your specific concerns with your surgeon.
What You Can Do
Now here’s the best news. In the absence of pain, you will be able do to a lot more than you could before your knee replacement surgery. If you’re like most people, you chose to have surgery because you could no longer do the things you wanted or the things you needed to do. Now, after knee replacement surgery, you can get back to living. Short of high impact activities and contact sports, you will be able to do most of the things you enjoy. That means walking, bike riding, swimming, and dancing can definitely be on your “to do” list. In addition, participating in sports will also be something you can enjoy, including golf, rowing, boating, fishing, bowling, doubles tennis, hiking and pickle ball. But the list doesn’t end there. Other activities may pose a higher risk and should probably be discussed with your orthopedic surgeon before you plan to participate. These might include skiing, scuba diving, horseback riding, volleyball and softball. While this last list might not necessarily seem dangerous, any activity in which you could foresee a possible knee injury should be something you should stop to weigh the risks and benefits of before moving forward. It could be that you decide to enjoy your favorite activities, but modify your risk by, for instance, skiing on less advanced slopes or using designated runners. Your level of proficiency in any activity prior to knee replacement surgery may determine how aggressive your comeback might be. In other words, if you’ve never ridden a horse before, sticking to walking as opposed to galloping might be a good decision. And if you have any lingering doubts, your orthopedic surgeon will be able to give you expert advice designed specific to your unique circumstances.
So now, congratulations are in order as you’ve fully recovered from your knee replacement surgery. Go out live your life and enjoy! However, if you have any questions or concerns about this surgery, or any other orthopedic problems you might be experiencing, we’re always here for you. To seek the expert advice of Dr. Brett Gilbert in Raleigh, Durham, Cary or Apex, contact us today by calling us at (919) 788-8797 or request an appointment online.