When I see patients who are preparing for hip or knee replacement surgery, one of the most common questions they ask is: “What kinds of activities will I (or won’t I) be able to do after surgery?”
The answer is good news. Usually, people can participate in many more activities than they think — and, most of the time, a lot more than they did before surgery. If you’re considering a hip or knee replacement, here’s what you can expect.
Safe Exercises for Replacement Joints
Joint replacements are a good treatment option for people whose hip or knee joints have been damaged by arthritis. And most people considering joint replacement are already in pretty bad shape. They usually have a lot of discomfort and limited range of motion. Most aren’t worried about running marathons — they just want to stand and walk without pain.
After a joint replacement, your physical therapist will guide your activities as you heal. You’ll work on improving balance and increasing the range of motion in your new joint. Pretty early on, you’ll be able to perform low-impact activities like biking or using the elliptical machine.
Before you know it, you’ll be back to doing many of the things you did before arthritis slowed you down. Swimming, hiking, gardening, golfing, dancing— you’ll be able to enjoy a long list of safe activities.
Life After Hip and Knee Replacement: Activities to Avoid
But there are some important limitations to keep in mind for life after joint replacement surgery. We ask patients to avoid high-impact activities like running and jumping. That means road races and pick-up basketball games aren’t on the recommended list.
The reason? We want to keep your new joint working well for as long as possible.
Joint replacement technology is improving all the time. But replacement parts still aren’t as good as the ones you were born with. Modern hip and knee replacements usually last 15 to 20 years, depending on how you use them. High-impact exercises will shorten the lifespan of your joint.
But even if you stick to low-impact activities, it’s possible to do too much (just like you can with a natural joint). So listen to your body. If you have pain or swelling after exercise, talk to your doctor.
Active Lifestyles for Health and Wellness
Moving is so important, not only for your joints but for your overall health and wellness. When people are limited by arthritis pain, they naturally become less active. That can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight and put them at risk of problems like diabetes. A lack of physical activity can also affect mood and increase the risk of depression.
After a joint replacement, many of my patients develop healthier lifestyles. They’re taking evening walks with their families, working in the yard and going for bike rides. Their joints are happier — and so are they.
Ready to get moving again? Learn more about the nationally recognized joint replacement programs at Inova.