Most people can get back to the activities they enjoy after knee replacement surgery, including hiking.
But before we delve into the specifics, let’s review a few general facts about your knees.
Your knee joint is one of the largest joints in your body. It’s capable of bearing your entire weight as it bends and flexes. Your knee’s greatest strength also makes it very susceptible to injury.
Total or partial knee replacement surgery is an alternative for people who experience pain and stiffness in their knee joints due to wear and tear, age, injury, or arthritis.
What is a knee replacement?
During a total or partial knee replacement procedure, surgeons remove the diseased areas of the knee joint and replace them with artificial titanium components to reduce pain and loss of movement caused by osteoarthritis or other joint damage.
Total knee replacement surgery is a complex process.
The orthopedic surgeon will take careful measurements of the joint, angles, and alignment before surgery. They will then use these measurements to ensure the new joint is properly positioned and aligned to allow for natural movement.
For the best results, Bone & Joint uses Mako Robotic-Assisted Surgery in the Surgery Center. This technology allows surgeons to position the new joint within millimeters of the patient’s natural joint.
Often people will receive a list of physical therapy exercises to perform before their surgical date. These strengthening exercises prepare the muscles needed to compensate for body movement after the operation. In addition, strengthening the soft tissues that support the replaced joint also helps that area heal and recover faster.
Will I still have pain after knee replacement surgery?
Of course, there is surgical site pain related to any joint replacement procedure. But this pain should be temporary and should diminish as your body heals.
Joint replacement often solves bone-on-bone joint pain caused by arthritis.
After the surgery, you’ll work with your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist to get your joint moving again.
As you apply pressure to your new joint, your orthopedic team will assess how your knee responds to increased weight. After several weeks, your knee joint will begin to feel normal, and you will enjoy movement with less pain.
Working closely with a physical therapist and doing the prescribed exercises yields better overall results after a knee replacement. There may be limitations based on a person’s age, health, and the knee’s condition before surgery, but most people enjoy relief from pain and better movement.
So, we’ve come full circle to our original question.
Can I hike after a knee replacement?
Yes. Walking and hiking are low-impact exercises that people can take part in after a knee replacement.
While the type of surgery and knee implants that you received may regulate movement, most people can hike easy and moderate trails without difficulty.
But you will want to talk to your physical therapist or orthopedic provider if you plan to hike challenging or expert-level trails. While climbing up a steep hill does not overtax the joint, walking down a steep incline puts tremendous pressure on the knee.
If you know you want to pursue an activity that requires navigating steep hills, tell your physical therapist. Practicing exercises that strengthen the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, especially those on the back of the leg, will help support the knee joint and lessen the risk of injury.
There are a few other things you can do to keep your knees injury-free while hiking.
Invest in a pair of well-fitting hiking boots or shoes. Look for boots or shoes that give your foot exceptional arch support and proper leg alignment. Your hiking footwear should have ample room for your toes to move and allow your foot to strike the ground properly. If you have questions, talk to your physical therapist or sports medicine specialist about the proper shoe fit for your body type.
Ask about a knee brace. When you talk to your physical therapist about your hiking goals, ask if a knee brace or strap would take pressure off your knee joint. Sometimes, a knee brace or strap can supply added support for the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the knee.
Use hiking poles. These walking aids can help you keep your balance and reduce the stress and strain on your knees if you are hiking steep hills or uneven terrain.
Consider compression socks. Compression socks improve circulation and blood flow to your feet. Some hikers find compression socks help their body recover faster after a strenuous hike.
As you work with your orthopedic team, discuss the activities you would like to try or enjoy after knee replacement surgery. Then, they can help you decide the best ways to take part and prevent injury so you can enjoy these hobbies for a long, long time.