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How Far to Walk After Knee Replacement: Comprehensive Guide


Knee injuries are one of the most common problems that people face. It can have a debilitating effect on one’s quality of life. While knee replacement surgery is a common and generally successful procedure, it is still a major surgery.  After the surgery, you will need time to recover and adjust to your new knee.

While knee replacements are becoming increasingly common, there is still much misinformation about the best way to care for your new joint.  You may be wondering how far to walk after knee replacement surgery. This is an important question, as staying active and keeping your calf muscles and other pertinent muscles strong is crucial for a successful recovery.

The short answer is that you can walk as much as you feel comfortable after knee replacement surgery. 

In this article, we will dive deeper into how far you can expect to walk after knee replacement surgery and some tips for a successful recovery.

How Far Can You Walk After Knee Replacement Surgery?

Before answering the question, it is essential to understand the different types of knee replacement surgery.

There are two main types of knee replacement surgery: partial knee replacement and total knee replacement.

Partial Knee Replacement

The injuries generally treated with a partial knee replacement are more focal. In some cases, only one compartment of the knee is affected. This surgery involves replacing only the damaged portion of the cartilage and bone.

Generally, in a partial knee replacement, a smaller incision is made. This results in less pain and a quicker recovery for total knee replacement patients. With this type of knee surgery, you can expect a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery process.

This type of surgery is typically recommended for people who only have scar tissue damage to one knee area. It is also usually an option for younger and more active people.

Total Knee Replacement

A total knee replacement surgery is done when all three knee compartments are affected by arthritis. The surgeon will remove the damaged bone and cartilage in this type of surgery. They will then replace it with metal and plastic implants.

This type of knee surgery is usually recommended for people with arthritis in all three knee compartments. It is also an option for people who have had a previous partial knee replacement that failed.

Recovery time for a total knee replacement is typically longer than for a partial knee replacement. Some people may experience more pain and swelling after this type of surgery.

Recovery After Surgery

The answer to this question depends on a few factors. These include the type of knee replacement surgery you had, your pain level, and your overall health.

Most people can generally expect to walk around six weeks after having a total knee replacement. Most people can expect to walk around four weeks after surgery for a partial knee replacement.

Of course, everyone is different and will recover at their own pace. It is essential to listen to your body and take things slowly. If you start to experience pain, stop and rest. 

Your physical therapist will be a great resource as you recover from your knee surgery. They can give you specific exercises to help you regain strength and range of motion.  They will also be able to tell you when you are ready to start walking longer distances.

How to Live with a Knee Replacement?

In general, people who have had knee replacement surgery can return to most of their normal activities. This includes walking, climbing stairs, and driving. 

However, it is important to remember that you may need to take things slowly at first. Let’s take a look at the day-by-day recovery from a knee replacement.

Day One:

You will be taken to the recovery room on the day of your surgery. A doctor will closely monitor you as you wake up from the anesthesia. Once you are awake and alert, hospital staff will take you to your hospital room.  You can expect to spend one to two nights in the hospital.

During your stay, you will work with a physical therapist and an occupational therapist. They will teach you how to get in and out of bed safely and return to your activities of daily living in a modified way. They will also show you some exercises to do to help reduce swelling and pain.

Days Two and Three:

During your stay in the hospital, you will start progressing in your therapy sessions. This will help you regain strength and range of motion in the thigh muscles. You may also need to use a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine. This machine is used to keep your knee moving while you are healing.

You will also continue to take pain medication as needed. These medicines can help keep you comfortable as your knee heals. The pain should start to improve as the days go on.

Day Four:

If you are doing well, you may be able to go home on this day. Having someone at home who can help you with your recovery is essential. This includes assisting you with your exercises and getting you to and from your appointments.

You will also be given a list of instructions to follow at home. These will include how to care for your incision and when to start physical therapy.

Days Five through Seven:

You will continue doing the exercises your physical therapist taught you in the first week. Do not try to put all your weight on your leg just yet. And, when you stand up, make sure to use something stable for support.

Week Two: 

By this time, you should be able to fold your legs to put on your pants. You should also be able to stand on your operated leg for 10 to 15 minutes. The pain and swelling should start to decrease this week. 


Week Three:

At this point, you should be able to walk without a cane or crutches. You may still need them for long distances, however. You may also be able to start driving if you can do an emergency stop without pain. You should also be able to care for most of your needs now.

Week Four:

Some individuals may be able to return to everyday activities, such as driving a stationary bike and doing light exercise.  With that said, you may still need to take it easy.

You may also consider taking a class or participating in a support group. This can help you learn more about living with a knee replacement.  Recovery times will vary from person to person. In general, most people will be able to return to their normal activities within four to six weeks.

If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor or therapist. They can help you create a full recovery plan just for you.

Now let’s take a look at some things you can do to help ensure a successful recovery.

Tips For a Successful Recovery

Here are a few tips that will help you recover from your knee surgery:

Follow Your Physical Therapist’s Instructions:

Following the exercises and daily activities your physical therapist tells you to do is essential. These are specifically designed to help you recover from your surgery. When you first start physical therapy, you may only be able to do a few exercises. But do not get discouraged! You will quickly begin to see improvements.

Take it Easy:

It is important to avoid high-impact activities, such as running or playing tennis, during your recovery. You should also avoid any activities that cause pain. If unsure whether an action is safe, talk to your orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist.

Stay active:

While taking things slowly at first, it is essential to stay as active as possible for muscle strength. Walking is a great way to stay active while recovering from surgery.  If you can, aim for 30 minutes of walking each day. However, you may need to build up to this goal for your knee strength. Start within 10 minutes of walking, then gradually add more time each day.

Pain Management

You will experience some pain and swelling after your surgery. This is normal! You can do a few things to help manage your pain, however.

First, take your pain medications as prescribed by your doctor. You may also want to apply an ice pack to the operated area for 20 minutes multiple times daily for pain management.

Finally, be sure to elevate your leg when you are resting. This will help to reduce the likelihood of swelling and blood clots.

Keep the incision clean and dry:

It is essential to keep your incision clean and dry. This will help to prevent infection. Be sure to wash or clean the area per the doctor’s instructions daily. You should also avoid soaking in a bathtub or swimming during your recovery until the incisions are healed.

Attend Follow-up Appointments:

You will likely have a few follow-up appointments with your doctor or rehab facility after surgery. These appointments are essential! They allow your doctor to check on your progress and answer any questions you may have.

Be sure to attend all your follow-up appointments. And if you have any concerns, be sure to bring them up with your doctor.


What to Avoid After Knee Replacement Surgery

There are a few things you should avoid after knee replacement surgery.  These activities put unnecessary stress on your new knee joint and can damage it.

Bending your knee past a 90-degree angle:

You will have a lot of restrictions on bending your knee after surgery. For the first few weeks, you likely will not be able to bend your knee past a 90-degree angle. This knee bend means no sitting in low chairs or sofas and no squatting.

Sitting in one position for too long:

Avoid sitting in one position for more than 30 minutes at a time. This can cause stiffness and pain in your new joint. Get up and move around as much as possible, even just walking around your house.

Crossing your legs:

Crossing your legs can put unnecessary stress on your new joint. Try to avoid crossing your legs at the knee for the first few weeks after surgery.

Putting too much weight on your joint:

You will need to be careful not to put too much weight on your new joint or compression stockings. Avoid carrying heavy objects and limit how much you lift to no more than 10 pounds.

Doing high-impact activities:

High-impact activities, such as running, jumping, and playing tennis, can damage your new joint. You should avoid these activities for at least six weeks after surgery.

You will likely have a lot of restrictions on what you can and cannot do after knee replacement surgery. Following your surgeon’s instructions is essential to avoid damaging your new joint.

How Far to Walk After Knee Replacement Surgery

You should walk as soon as you can after your surgery. Walking is suitable for your new joint. You will be able to walk farther and faster as time goes by.

How far you can walk depends on how well your new joint works. Your orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist will tell you how much weight you can put on your leg and when you can start walking.

Start with short distances. Try longer walks each day than you did the day before. You may have some pain as you start walking. This is normal. Ask Your doctor or physical therapist how much pain is normal and what you can do to ease the knee pain.

You may need a cane or other assistive device to help you walk. Your doctor or therapist will tell you when and how to use these devices to achieve modified normal functioning.

You may return to your normal activities in 4 to 6 weeks. But it may take up to 12 months before you can do everything you could do before surgery.