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Can I overdo walking after a knee replacement?

In short, YES! The philosophy around recovery from knee replacement has changed
significantly in recent years and when it comes to walking distance surgeons with an interest
in rapid recovery after knee replacement surgery are now often adopting a less is more
approach.


In times gone by we often recommended you really push your knee as hard as possible in
the early post-operative recovery in order to maximise function. Research has shown that
some aspects of this approach can be counter-productive because of the effect on your
knee swelling.


You may be thinking that somebody has told you it’s important to get your knee bending as
much as possible after surgery and that aspect is still true. In fact it’s why we need you to
walk less not more in the early weeks after surgery. Why?


Walking increases the amount your knee swells, and swelling can limit the ability of your
knee to straighten or bend fully. So everything we do is targeted at reducing your swelling
(ice, elevation, compression, minimising step count). It’s important to stress that you will
still have some swelling for months after surgery, we just want that swelling to be as
minimal as possible to maximise your range of motion for the long term.


You will be glad to know that reducing your step count and therefore swelling in the early
postoperative period will also reduce your pain noticeably.


Accordingly, in the weeks after surgery, I will recommend a maximum step count that slowly
increases week by week. This is a cap, not a target! It’s important that your knee bends and
straightens well before we get you walking longer distances. We can give you all the precise
details after you book in for your partial or total knee replacement – you’ll be guided
through the journey.


So relax, put your feet up (literally) and enjoy a knee replacement that hurts less and bends
better.