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Activity Restrictions After Joint Replacement?

by Cory Calendine, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, Hip and Knee Specialist

 I often hear this concern from joint replacement candidates, "Will my physical activity have any restrictions following joint replacement?"

ANSWER: NO (but that would be much too short for a blog post - so I'll explain a little more)

With a practice dedicated completely to hip and knee replacement, I perform hundreds of cases each year and I do not recommend long term activity restrictions for patients. I'll attempt to answers some of the concerns commonly seen in patients considering surgery.

Bo Jackson, pro athlete and hip replacement patient promotes an active lifestyle after surgery with cycling, archery and golf.

What about activity restrictions immediately after surgery?

Most commonly, I recommend hip replacement using the anterior approach and do no place any restrictions on patient – even the day of surgery – except to say, "use good common sense and avoid the extremes of motion (like heel behind your head)." If a hip replacement is performed with a posterior approach, we sometimes recommend to avoid bending more than 90 degrees, sitting in low chairs, and crossing your knees for the first few weeks following surgery. These temporary restrictions are to minimize the risk of dislocation during the initial post-operative period. While somewhat limiting, when required, these restrictions can be accommodated fairly easily to allow patients to get back to normal life soon.

Sybil Shapiro, 41-Year-Old Runner set Masters Marathon Record Two Years After Hip Replacement

What about running after joint replacement?

Rule #1: If someone is chasing you, I always recommend you run –prior to or after your joint replacement. (wink)

It is true that hip and knee replacement parts are artificial and technically can wear-out over time, but this isn't your grandmother's joint prosthesis. New joint replacement technology and materials are far less likely to "wear-out" than previous designs. I strongly agree with Dr. Zachary Post, joint replacement specialist with the Rothman Institute who recently wrote,

This anterior hip is so much more stable that patients are no longer given restrictions after hip replacement. That’s right, no restrictions. After an anterior hip replacement you can do anything you want to. Anything. I have patients who hike, bike and hunt...In the past some of those activities were unthinkable after hip replacement.

Substituting low impact exercises (like walking, swimming and cycling) for higher impact activities (like running and plyometrics) is a reasonable recommendation you will still see in patient education materials across the internet, but is not required after modern joint replacement surgery.

RELATED VIDEO: How Long Do Joint Replacements Last?

What about skiing (water or snow)?

There is nothing inherently challenging to the replacement parts with skiing following your joint replacement. It is important to know, however, that if you fall and break bones around the joint replacement - it may require the joint replacement to be redone - as well as having the fracture fixed. Is there some risk? Yes, but we appreciate and treat all patients as responsible free-will agents, capable of making quality of life decisions based on recommendations. My general recommendation is if a patient was an excellent skier prior to surgery, it is probably okay to get back out there (with appropriate caution). On the other hand, after joint replacement is probably not the best time to take up any high-impact sport with an elevated risk of musculoskeletal injury.

I hope this helps. It is always exciting to hear and see patients physical accomplishments and achievements following joint replacement. Wellness and fitness are extremely important following joint replacement, and we want to give every patient the opportunity to continue the activities in life they enjoy.

What activities have you resumed or started following your joint replacement success? What other specific questions do you have regarding restrictions after joint replacement? Hit the Contact button above to send us an email update and please subscribe to blog below for regular bone and joint health updates and news.

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Cory Calendine, MD is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and founding partner of the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee at Williamson County Hospital in Franklin, TN. Dr. Calendine is an expert in Joint Replacement, specializing in Hip and Knee Surgery. From diagnosis through treatment, the Orthopaedic Surgical experts at the Bone and Joint Institute use the latest techniques and technology to improve care for people with musculoskeletal problems. For more information, please contact our office or schedule your appointment today.  

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