A runner story after knee replacement
Should you run after a knee replacement???
Logically, the answer seems to be no. But you try telling a runner that they can’t run
The consensus of opinion is that jogging or running after a full knee replacement is not
recommended, but is the advice correct?
There are many considerations and risk factors for running after a knee replacement,
so the answer is not a simple yes or no.
Running after knee replacement can be safe, provided you are listening to your body
and progressing slowly.
But first let’s talk about why we run. There’s so many reasons why people run – to
improve their physical health and mental health, to forge new friendships, to explore new
places, to test their physical and mental limits – the list is endless. Everyone’s reasons
are completely unique and the decision to start can be genuinely life-changing.
Running is empowering, liberating, challenging, real, joyful, and painful.
MY STORY – I was athletic my whole life, but distance running was never something I
ever considered doing. Never thought I could. After my first pregnancy I started walking
with my twins in the stroller. Then the neighborhood ladies and I started a little walking
club. One day someone said, “Let’s run to the corner” I thought they were nuts. Well,
that run to the corner led to a run around the block, to running my first mile, to signing
up for my first 5k, 5 miler, 10k, ½ marathon and marathon. Yes, at the age of 28 I actually
considered myself a full fledged runner. I had been bitten by the running bug and I totally
understood why people ran. I now was one of those people that I always thought were
crazy when I saw them pounding the pavement. I couldn’t live without it and it helped me
through so many stages in my life.
Then it happened. In my mid 40s I started with that knee pain. Visited doctors, had
procedures done to try to help it but the doctors felt that I was too young to consider a
knee replacement? Sitting around and not doing the activities that I loved to do…that I
needed to do… that was not me. Then another doctor was recommended to me. My
x-rays showed that I had bone on bone. He offered the knee replacement with the reason
that I was still young enough to be active and enjoy activities instead of waiting for “the
right age”. So at the age of 46 on August 13, 2013 I had my surgery. He wasn’t sure if I
would need a partial or a full replacement until he went in to actually see it. I awoke with
a partial knee replacement and some of the worse pain I had ever experienced in my life,
pain that lasted for months. I gained weight, I was depressed but I persevered. After
months of physical therapy I joined a gym and it was at the gym that I ran my first 50
yards again with my new knee. And boy did I cry. I was so happy that I was working my
way back. And working my way back was what I did. I ran that mile again, that 5k and
that 5 miler and yes I cried after each one. Will I ever be the runner that I was? Nope..and
that’s ok. Long distances will never be in my plan, nor will daily runs. But I’ve joined
another gym (Extraordinary Fitness) that I love and every once in a while I sign up for a
race. I walk a lot and even throw in some running. I still have that little bit of
competitiveness but the only thing I’m competing against is myself that I am able to do a
little more than I did the last time and for that I am proud of myself. I still belong to my
running club (Ocean Running Club), the most amazing, supportive group of people that I
could ever ask for. Sometimes, like any runner, I feel sorry for myself: my legs are tired,
my joints are hurting, and I get that pang of pain in my knee which causes me to think
that I probably shouldn’t be doing this… But when I do, I try to remind myself that not
everyone is lucky enough to be able to do this. . It’s a joy and a privilege.’ And yes,
maybe someday I will need another knee replacement, but for now I am very grateful for
the one I have because without it I wouldn’t be able to do the activities that I have been
able to do for the past ten years. At this point in my life I just need to be smart with my
Here are some things to consider if you are considering returning to running after a knee
Prepare your body before your surgery. The single best thing you can do to get you back
to running after knee replacement surgery as quickly and efficiently as possible is to stay
fit up until the day of your surgery.
Although it may not be possible to run, particularly if your knee joint degeneration is
severe, it should be possible to stay active by doing some other form of low impact
exercise. Swimming, cycling, deep water running, walking and the elliptical machine are
all good examples of alternative cardio exercises you can perform to maintain your
aerobic fitness leading up to your surgery.
Once you begin to try to run again after surgery, it is best to treat yourself as a beginner
runner. Start with just easy walk/run intervals, gradually progressing the length of the
run intervals. Do not run more than 2–3 times per week to begin (using the walk/run
approach) so that you don’t overdo it on your musculoskeletal system with the stress
and impact of running. You can supplement your running workouts with cross-training
activities on alternate days as long as you don’t have any pain. Remember to speak to
your doctor and physical therapist so they can guide you through this process. There is
a ton of information provided on the internet to also help you.
Running after a knee replacement might not be a smooth and seamless process, but if
you listen to your body and stay patient and positive, you should be able to get back to
the sport you love. You can also reach out to any of our members who have gone
through this. It really helps to have someone who understands.
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