Can you run after total knee-replacement surgery?
The short answer to this question is Yes. Should you run after knee-replacement surgery is another question. But this is a question only you can answer. Why? Because it’s a jungle out there when it comes to medical advice. Some surgeons and physiotherapists say you shouldn’t, while others say you should. Part of the problem stems from the fact that some surgeons and physiotherapists have not kept up with recent advancements in this field. They continue to disburse advice about the durability of the new knees that doesn’t take into account recent advances in the materials used today.
To keep our joints healthy, we need to give them the right amount of load. Most runners are – even casual runners – love the feeling they get when they run. It’s addictive. And when OA gets so bad that you’re considering replacing a joint, most people postpone the procedure because they’re afraid they’ll have to give up running. Newsflash – you don’t have to give it up. Once the knee joint is worn down to bone-on-bone – as it was in both of my knees – it doesn’t take a traumatic injury as I had to my knees to need a partial or total knee replacement.
Do rehab diligently
Today’s technology, which includes robotic technology and 3d modeling, is exceptionally accurate and uses much more durable materials with a low likelihood of wearing out. This allows the body to grow its own bone into the undersurface of the implant to attach them permanently to each other. If you do your rehab religiously and move slowly, the question is more like, why shouldn’t you run once you’re fully recovered? If you return to running gradually, you’ll build bone density and muscle strength, which decreases the risk of your implant loosening.
Pros of running
Of course, there are pros and cons, and you need to make sure you understand them well before you decide to start running again. Always consult with your surgeon and physiotherapist. Here are some of the pros. Both jogging and running are excellent aerobic exercises. You can do them indoors (treadmill) or outdoors, which I prefer because I can enjoy nature. If you don’t exercise, you’ll gain weight, which adds more strain and stress on your knees – even the healthy one if you’ve only had one total knee replacement. Technology and materials have improved drastically in the last few years.
Consequently, today’s implants can handle more stress than earlier ones. All this means if you’re willing to put in the hard work with your physiotherapist and on your own, you’ll have a speedier recovery. You’ll need to restore your optimal body mechanics by training your gait, balance and core fitness. Count on four to six months of training before it’s safe to run again. And last but not least, running shoes and knee braces have improved tremendously.
Cons of running
I have to mention age here, of course, as it’s something you need to consider if you’re thinking about running again. The older you are, the more difficult it will be. That said, I was 71 when I had my first total knee placement and 73 when I had my second. Thanks to a lot of hard work in rehab, I returned to running (jogging to be more accurate) nine months after the first operation and five months after the second. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t start running again and unless you’re prepared to do the hard work. And it’s hard – trust me on that! Running or jogging after a total replacement does pose a risk. If the implant becomes loose or damaged, it will need to be repaired or replaced, which is a much more complicated process with a lower success rate.
Time is on your side
No matter how you cut it, recovery from a total knee replacement is going to take time. And if you want to return to running or jogging, it’s going to require much more time and hard work. You must make sure you’re not overweight (not easy today) and that you have good form when you run again. Often, the body can be out of balance from limping or having weak core and glute muscles. In the end, only you can decide if the pros outweigh the cons. In my case and at my age, I decided the pros outweighed the cons.