Exercise After Knee Replacement

Seven-hundred thousand Americans have knee replacement surgery every year to relieve the excruciating pain of worn-out joints. At some point after the surgery, every patient starts to wonder­­­ how much is too much on new knees?

Fifty-five year old Mark Ferguson is happy when he's dancing with his granddaughters. Anything that gets his heart pumping is perfect. Years ago, Ferguson was a former heavyweight running champ, then, his knees gave out.

Ferguson told Ivanhoe, "In my forties I got to a point where I couldn't run anymore."

Several months ago surgeons replaced both of his knees and Ferguson began his recovery immediately.

Ferguson explained, "Eight hours after surgery I was walking down the hall."

Doctor Freddie Fu, MD, Chairman of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center told Ivanhoe, "I think it's important to get up as soon as they can get up."

Fu says exercise is crucial so patients don't lose muscle mass or range of motion after the surgery. He also says, once the surgical site heals, hit the pool. He said, "It's probably the best exercise you can do."

Fu says if you can't swim, walking or stretching in water is great.  His other top exercise options are stationary biking and walking on a flat surface. But if you're wondering if patients can go for a run?  Fu said it depends.

"I would shy away from the pounding on the treadmill. Run with good shoes that have some buoyancy, and hopefully you're running more for cardiovascular purposes, not for like a marathon."

Ferguson said his granddaughters keep him going. "I want to see my children's children's children.  I want to be a great grandfather."

Doctor Fu said the goal for knee replacement patients is to preserve the life of the new joint, which can last anywhere from ten to 30 years.  That's why Fu cautions patients to exercise on flat surfaces, keep their weight down and not to do a lot of deep knee bends.