Expedite Your Recovery: What Not to Do After Knee Replacement

Female patient wearing orthosis sitting on bed holding crutches after surgery on broken leg.

Around 9 years ago, I put my femur through my tibia in a freak skiing accident. Roughly 2 years ago, I had total knee replacement surgery.

I had all the tools available, mobility work, and was pain free. So, you may be wondering, why the surgery?

Well, my knee was severely limiting my daily life. The constant maintenance required to keep my knee functional was no longer worth it.

Making healthy lifestyle choices wasn’t enough to resolve certain injuries. While I could deadlift 600lbs on the sucker, and move around pain free, I wasn’t fully functional.

Activities I once loved began to fly the coop. Running? Off the table. Jumping? No go. When even mountain biking began to cause discomfort, I knew it was time to find a more concrete solution.

I elected to get a total knee replacement. And with knee replacement, as any orthopedic surgeon would recommend, came surgery optimization. It was during this time that I learned what not to do after knee replacement.

Post-Surgery & Full Recovery

Pain can last for several weeks after surgery. Post-op full recovery can take up to a year or more depending on various factors, such as your overall health and adherence to physical therapy. During this, there may be permanent restrictions on activities like high-contact sports or heavy lifting.

The human body has a finite capacity to heal, and we can’t accelerate this process beyond its natural rate. But we can remove the things that could cause it to slow down.

I’ve written about both pre-surgery and post-opt tactics for exactly this purpose in the articles: Surgery Checklist for Athletes, and Surgery Rehabilitation for Athletes.

Supplement this guide with the aforementioned readings to help you optimize healing. You can rely on them from your first few days of bed rest to months after surgery. Avoid common post-op problems like stiffness, pain, and swelling.

Here’s what you cannot do after knee replacement.

4 Things You Can’t Do After Knee Replacement

Obvious restrictions after knee replacement include jumping up from your hospital bed, ignoring your pain, and getting right back into the gym..

But did you know that some casual activities and conventional tools can also delay your recovery? Refrain from engaging in these high-risk activities during your recovery period:

1. Don’t move too little

While moving too much is certainly bad for surgery recovery, sitting still until everything heals could be worse.

Movement and mobility heal. As long as you don’t put the knee joint through uncomfortable and painful activities, we recommend moving as much as possible.

There are multiple ways to get blood flow through the joint in the hospital. Compression using an affordable VooDoo floss or Electro-stim devices (can be covered by insurance) can help you jumpstart movements in the area.

Once cleared, continue working out the unaffected body parts. Lift for the upper body or try light, non-exercise movement on an Airdyne or stationary bike. Gentle movement, even if it’s just a conversational pace, can help your body adapt to the new joint, maintain blood flow, and reduce congestion or blood clots.

2. Icing the injury

Directly icing an inflamed joint isn’t good for long term recovery. It should be avoided after knee replacement.

The inflammation process your body goes through after an injury or surgery teaches your body to heal. I favor cold therapy for systemic inflammation and metabolic health, but I wouldn’t advise icing surgical or non-surgical injuries.

Icing can further constrict already constrained fluid flow in the body. It’s the opposite of what healing requires, which is to improve flow and reduce congestion.

Focus on other methods such as elevation. You can do this a few minutes at a time. Once you’re cleared from the hospital, continue using tissue mobilization techniques. Just make sure you don’t directly affect the surgery area. Attend only to the tissues above and below.

3. Don’t skip sleep

What can you not do after knee replacement? Skip sleep.

Sleep is the most important part of the recovery process. If you’re not sleeping, you’re not recovering.

There’s a risk of falling during the post-surgical phase due to pain and discomfort. Aside from assistive devices like crutches or a walker, adequate sleep is crucial for balance and coordination. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep during the post-op phase.

To ensure quality sleep, remove cell phones from your room or put them in airplane mode an hour before bed. You should also make sure to get enough movement during the day. You won’t be able to walk long distances, but spinning on the airdyne at low paces can replace this. If you’re still in the hospital, do what you can to elevate the joint. Use assistive devices like the H-wave to stimulate muscles without aggravating the injury.

For insomnia sufferers, ask your doctor about sleep medications or look into a natural sleep aid.

4. Don’t stop mobilizing

I may sound like a broken record, but let me repeat this again: Don’t stop mobilizing.

Idleness can increase the risk of complications. Even tissue mobilization on areas not directly affected by surgery can help. Physical therapy is imperative following knee surgery, but not only for the affected leg. Mobilize other body areas too like the back, upper body, high quads, hips, calves, and feet.

Don’t start tissue mobilizing the quads on the leg that recently underwent surgery. Use mobs on these muscles only once approved by your doctor. Continue doing so as long as there are no sharp pains in the surgery-afflicted area.

Remember, the virtual mobility coach contains mobs for addressing pain and increasing your range of motion. Make sure to take advantage of this tool while you have the extra down-time that comes with surgery.

Plan and Maximize Your Chances of Recovery with TRS

You know what activities you can’t do after knee replacement. Now, what CAN you DO?

Post-surgery self-care is a valuable investment in your long-term health. That’s how I prepared for and recovered from my own knee replacement. With my guidance, The Ready State has created one of the most extensive surgery recovery protocols available online.

The surgery recovery protocol has more tools than any of our other fix-yourself routines. It has been specially designed to complement the actions and efforts of your own doctors and physical therapists as you work through healing.

Take control and maximize the results of your surgery with The Ready State!

1 thoughts on “Expedite Your Recovery: What Not to Do After Knee Replacement

  1. William Meertens
    William Meertens says:

    Hi Kelly and Julia
    In 2016 and again in 2019 I had shoulder surgery, on both occasions I used some of Mobility WOD mobilizations and managed strength work for my pre-surgery and followed my Physio’s instructions properly after the surgery.
    Today I’m surfing up to 6 hours a day and paddling better than ever…not bad for a 65 year old.
    Keep up the awesome work!!!
    Just started reading Built to Move
    Kindest regards

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