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Returning to Activity After Knee Replacement Surgery

You’ll need to take it easy after knee replacement surgery. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t be reasonably active.
October 7, 2020 | 3 min read

In the months following your knee replacement surgery, you'll likely be advised to take it easy, and follow specific instructions from your surgeon or physical therapist on returning to daily activity. 

Exact timing differs by individual and the ability to return to your “normal” routine depends on what your “normal” is. As early as the day of surgery, many patients will begin putting full weight on their knee.  It will be uncomfortable at first, and should gradually improve as the muscles and tissues around the knee heal and get stronger.  You should be able to walk right away using an assistive device like a walker or cane.

Depending on the way your knee surgery is performed, there may be some positions or motions your surgeon wants you to avoid for a period of time to make sure the knee heals properly. Patients with sedentary or office jobs may be able to return to work fairly quickly - sometimes in a matter of weeks.  Others with more physically demanding jobs will take longer. 

If you’re wondering when you can drive again, it really depends on your specific surgery. The most important thing about driving is that you feel comfortable behind the wheel and operating the pedals.  This typically means you’ll need to be off any narcotics. It also depends on which knee was replaced and whether your vehicle is an automatic or manual transmission. As a general rule, it could be anywhere from two to six weeks before your doctor clears you to drive again.

You should be able to shower within a few days of surgery. Your surgeon will notify you when it’s safe to remove your bandage. You’ll likely be advised to steer clear of hot tubs and pools until your incision is nicely healed in about three to six weeks.

You may be excited at the possibility of firing up your sex life again, especially if joint pain has put a damper on it over the past several years. Most doctors will let you resume sexual activities as soon as you feel able, typically in about four to six weeks. The key is making sure that you don’t do anything that could cause a problem while you are healing.

In many cases, successful knee replacement surgery will relieve your pain and stiffness, and allow you to resume many of your normal daily activities. But even after you have fully recovered from your surgery, you may have some restrictions. Normal daily activities do not typically include high-impact sports such as jogging, basketball, gymnastics, or activities that put excessive strain on your knee joints. Safer activities may include walking, golf, swimming, and bicycling. Your surgeon will advise you on safe activities for your particular condition. Before attempting any new activities, talk to your surgeon to see if they feel you are ready. You’ll likely continue to heal and improve for at least six months, so patience is key.

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