Knee replacement surgery can put an end to knee pain and allow you to resume an active life. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, life after knee replacement will be much as it was before, only without pain. If you were a racewalker before, you may be able to resume this activity after knee replacement. But it won’t happen overnight.
Knee Replacement Recovery
Expect to stay in the hospital three to four days for a single knee replacement. If you had both knees replaced, you may need to stay a few days longer, according to Steven Stuchin, M.D., director of orthopaedic surgery at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases. You’ll begin physical therapy soon after surgery to strengthen the muscles around the knee, progressing to walking and then climbing stairs. “Range of motion will be the hardest thing to get back, but the more you bend your knee, the better it will ultimately feel,” Stuchin says. You may have stiffness in your knee for as long as six months, but the goal is to return the activities you were able to do before your knee replacement, Stuchin says.
Returning to an active lifestyle is encouraged after knee replacement. But don’t overdo it. The AAOS warns that you should avoid activities that put stress on the knee. Allowed activities as you rehab your knee include walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, low-resistance weight lifting and using a stationary skiing machine. Speed walking is slightly more risky after knee replacement, but is an acceptable activity, according to The Knee Society. Racewalking, which is a form of speed walking, is better for the knees than higher impact activities such as jogging, according to Stuchin.
Racewalkers can travel as fast as runners, but without as much stress to the implant after knee replacement. The racewalking technique requires that one foot be touching the ground constantly, whereas running involves having one foot off the ground, explains Bonnie Stein, M.Ed., a racewalking instructor in Tampa, Florida. Because the legs don’t slam against the ground like they do when running, the knee implant receives less of a jolt. Another advantage: Stein says racewalking involves less knee bending than jogging or power walking. Racewalking may look funny to observers, but it’s a much more knee-friendly activity than running. “In my practice, I give the OK to racewalking, but not jogging,” Stuchin says
Returning to Racewalking
Stuchin recommends waiting six months after your surgery before returning to fast racewalking. Until then, walk more slowly. Racewalking can be done at a leisurely pace. “You can racewalk a 20-minute or a six-minute mile,” Stein says. If you were a competitive racewalker before your knee replacement, at least hold off on racing. The heat of competition could cause you to push yourself before the muscles around your knees are sufficiently strengthened, Stuchin notes. After your knee is rehabbed, you’ll be able to get back to racing. “I know of several people with knee replacements who compete in the Senior Olympics,” Stein says. “Their knee replacements haven’t held them back at all.”
- Steven Stuchin, M.D.; director of orthopaedic surgery, NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases
- Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.; racewalking instructor in Tampa, Florida
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Activities After a Knee Replacement
- The Knee Society: Total Knee Replacement
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.