A combined 280,000 joint replacement surgeries were performed in 2016, according to the American Joint Replacement Registry. While the statistics for 2017 have not been released as of this article, the numbers are expected to increase continuing a trend that began in 2012.
As life expectancies continue to rise, more people will experience conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis that damages their joints. Consequently, more people will turn to surgeons to have artificial joints put in to relieve their pain—pain that often keeps them from active lives.
Artificial joints are remarkably resilient, and it’s rare that a knee or hip replacement doesn’t last a patient the rest of their life. But care has to be taken not to put undue stress on the artificial joint, as this can wear it out much more quickly.
This article provides a list of approved activities following joint replacement surgery. This article also contains activities that require precautions as well as activities to avoid.
Activities That Are Encouraged
Yoga is all about gentle, controlled motion and being in the moment. It will also keep your muscles flexible and strong. Because of that, yoga is the perfect post-surgery activity because it inherently decreases your risk of an injury.
Depending on whether your surgery was performed anteriorly or posteriorly, certain movements may be restricted so be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning any sort of program.
Patients are often most surprised to learn that they are not only permitted to lift weights but are encouraged to lift weights after receiving a joint replacement. In fact, lifting weights is the best thing a patient can do for the prolonged life of their artificial joint.
When done with proper form, weight lifting—also called resistance training—strengthens muscles and increases bone density, all while being relatively easy on the joints. With that said, improper form can severely damage joints, so it is imperative that you use proper form to ensure the longevity of your artificial joint.
Walking is great for your hips but patients need to be conscious of their body mechanics. Walking is a complex process that involves more than just your leg and foot—your head, shoulders, arms, spine, and hips are also engaged.
In order to walk properly, you need to walk with one leg extended in front of the other. Then, as your heel on your forward leg touches the ground, your knee should be slightly bent. This will allow your body weight to be shifted to the foot while your bent knee will absorb the shock of the step. As your leg continues forward, your knee straightens. Lifting your heel off of the ground transfers all of the force of the step to the ball of your foot. As your rear foot forcefully pushes off from the toes, you will push your body forward. Finally, the rear leg will swing forward becoming the forward leg and foot.
Proper body mechanics when walking takes into account even the most minute detail. It is a skill that you can develop over time with the help of a physical therapist.
Aside from proper form, patients of joint replacements should also remember that while walking is an excellent activity, it is not a replacement for other exercises. Walking, alongside stretching and resistance training, are essential to maintaining healthy joints.
Many people are happy to learn that they can return to golf after a hip or knee replacement; however, there are precautions that you will need to take. Knee and hip replacement patients should avoid wearing spiked shoes on the course. Spiked shoes fix the leg in place and cause torque during the swing, which will put additional stress on artificial joints.
Golfers should make certain that they have permission from their physician before they return to the green.
Bowling, generally speaking, is easy on the knees and hips. So long as the patient has spent adequate time recovering from their joint replacement and has completed prescribed physical therapy, there should be absolutely no problem with bowling. In fact, many bowlers report feeling much better about their game after a joint replacement because they no longer have pain that interferes with their performance.
Cycling is one of the best sources of low-impact anaerobic exercise, and with a little care, joint replacement patients can bike to their hearts’ content. However, both professional cyclists as well as hobbyists need to be wary of falling or landing on their artificial joint. Otherwise, patients are encouraged to bike as soon as recovery is completed.
Activities in Between
Of all post-joint-replacement activities, running requires the most precaution. This is because running is a high-impact activity that puts intense repeated stress on the joint—the exact kind that is most likely to make a joint fail.
The truth of the matter is that the effects of high-impact activity on joint replacements are not well studied. The decision to resume running after a hip or knee replacement should be made on a case-by-case basis, and only after a comprehensive discussion with your physician regarding your personal health factors and individual level of risk. For a more definite answer, patients will need to consult their physician.
While aggressive singles tennis should be avoided after joint replacement, doubles tennis is usually acceptable. That’s because playing tennis with a partner significantly decreases the amount of running and pivoting both players have to do. Of course, this ceases to be true if a doubles match becomes too intense and competitive. The key is to find a level of competition that is not only safe but enjoyable.
Hiking—with restrictions—is perfectly fine after joint surgery. Keep to flat, nonskid terrain in order to avoid falling on your artificial joint. Hiking sticks can also be used to absorb some of the stress placed on the hip and knee joints.
Skiing is much the same as hiking. With some precaution, patients should be able to ski with no problems.
Activities That You Shouldn’t Do
Any Activity Involving Aggressive Pivoting
Racquetball, singles tennis, and basketball are all examples of sports that utilize aggressive pivoting. These sports emphasize keeping one leg planted on the ground and using it as a pivot point to turn the rest of the body. Even without an artificial joint, pivoting is dangerous and often leads to injuries of the knee joint.
High Impact Lifts
High impact lifts, such as the clean jerk, places a tremendous amount of stress on the knees and hips. Even with proper form, these Olympic-style lifts should be avoided by individuals with artificial joints.
Wondering if Joint Replacement is Right for You?
While having a joint replaced is a commitment, it’s one that patients are glad they have made. Almost everyone who receives a joint replacement reports being at or beyond their pre-surgery levels of pain and strength only 9 months after the surgery.
If you are considering joint replacement surgery, Dr. Haleem Chaudhary at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine can provide you with guidance. Dr. Chaudhary is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with expertise in both hip and knee replacements. In fact, he is specially trained in minimally invasive techniques that lessen post-op complications and speed up recovery.
Dr. Chaudhary is committed to helping you live the active life you want to live. Schedule an appointment to learn more.