A total knee replacement involves the removal of the head of the femur bone, removal of the head of the tibia bone and removal of the patella. The bones are then replaced with titanium or stainless steel prosthesis and plastic components. The new femur and tibia joint will glide smoothly upon movement of the knee joint along with the new plastic patella that fits over the adjoining parts. Activity after total knee replacement is encouraged in moderation.
Immediate activity after total knee replacement includes moderate walking with the assistance of a walker under hospital staff supervision. Physical therapy is included in the initial activity regime in order to introduce range of motion to the new joint.
Home exercise includes walking from room to room, getting in and out of a chair and eventually walking outdoors. Some patients require more assistance than others. Eventually activity will increase until the patient is ready for normal activity.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons lists activity after total knee replacement in three categories. Expected activity includes walking, driving, golf, light hiking, stair climbing, ballroom dancing and biking. Most patients can follow these activities shortly after surgery.
Activity that exceeds the recommended level is usually the type of activity that the patient did before surgery such as tennis, aerobics, lifting over 50 pounds and hiking. Patients that perform these types of activities can risk injury of the new knee replacement and other joints. The body tells people when to slow down but some think it is just another challenge on their road to fitness. It is important to listen to the body.
Dangerous activities include jumping sports like basketball, jogging, running and contact sports.
Patients are advised to follow the normal activity recommendations set by their doctor. Excessive abuse on the prosthesis can cause it to wear down and become loose, leading to injury and another joint replacement.
An abstract printed by the National Institute of Health in 2003, of a Vienna, Austria study on the physical activities of patients experiencing total knee replacement concluded, that patients favored low impact activities and sports as opposed to higher impact sports.
The study included 111 patients with an average age of 55.3 years. Postoperatively, the activity rate only dropped by five percent. Walking was the preferred activity over swimming and cycling. Overall the study concluded that low impact activities were preferred but the percentage of patients participating in activities did not decline after surgery from preoperative activities.
During a convention in 2007 of the American Association for Hip and Knee Surgeons, a survey questionnaire was conducted concerning physical activity following hip and knee replacement. Ninety-five percent of the respondents noted that they did not restrict any low impact activity after surgery, concluding that low-impact activities were the most desired among the group of orthopedic surgeons.
There are complications that can occur from total knee replacement surgery. Blood clots can form in the legs. Support stockings, blood thinning drugs and activity help to prevent clots. The surgical site and joint can develop infection. Chronic illnesses can complicate infection.
Low-impact activity after total knee replacement will help the joint to move as intended and maintain strength. A lifetime antibiotic treatment is necessary before dental procedures. Be sure to inform your dentist of your knee replacement.
Avoid falls if possible. Take precautions during icy weather, stairs, and lifting heavy objects. A total knee replacement can restore the mobility often lost before surgery. Use precautions and follow the surgeon’s instructions for better results.
PubMed: Physical Activity After Total Knee Replacement
PubMed: Activity Recommendations After Total Hip and Knee Replacement
University of Connecticut Health Center: Total Joint Replacement conditions and Treatment
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: Total Knee Replacement