Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement: What Level of Activity Can I Expect?

Knee replacement (knee arthroplasty) and hip replacement (hip arthroplasty) are two total joint replacement options to relieve pain and improve mobility and function for people who have become significantly limited by osteoarthritis of their knee or hip joint. Many people considering joint replacement surgery often wonder what type of activity they can expect after surgery. 

The ultimate goal of undergoing a joint replacement surgery is a complete return to daily activities, exercise, and hobbies without pain or limitation. However, it takes time and consistent participation from the patient with guidance from their physician and physical therapist to achieve these goals. In the blog post below, Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin physical therapist Laura Sullivan, PT, DPT, OCS, of Cedarburg Physical Therapy, describes the factors that contribute to a speedy recovery time from a total joint replacement. 

Recovery Time After Total Joint Replacement

Recovery time from surgery varies for everyone, and there are several factors to consider that will influence recovery time. These factors include: how well a patient follows post-op instructions, a person’s activity level before surgery, the presence of comorbidities, which type of joint replacement they have received, and if any post-surgical complications occur. A patient who has undergone a total joint replacement surgery can typically expect a hospital stay of 1-3 days. This timeline can be variable based on the aforementioned factors that influence recovery time. After surgery, the first few weeks focus on managing swelling and pain, improving the range of motion of the replaced joint, and building strength. All these factors contribute to a patient’s ability to gain independence with daily activities and mobility. Beyond that, physical therapy and exercise programs will focus on returning patients to the specific activities, exercises, and hobbies that the patient planned to return to post-surgery.

Hospital Stay Recovery 

Immediately after surgery, patients will work with physical and occupational therapists and nursing staff to get up and use their new total joint with basic mobility tasks. While in the hospital, patients will practice functional mobility tasks such as getting in and out of bed, moving from sitting to standing position, walking, and self-care. Patients will also begin with a basic exercise program to move their joint replacement safely. By the end of the hospital stay, patients will receive an assessment for safety by getting in and out of a vehicle and negotiating stairs if stairs are necessary to navigate their home.

Home Recovery 

After the hospital stay, patients will usually go home but will require assistance for daily tasks and mobility for the first couple of weeks. Household activities that a post-operative patient may need assistance with include: cooking, cleaning, laundry, getting dressed, and driving to/from appointments. Some patients do not have options for at-home assistance or require a higher level of assistance post-surgery. In this case, they will go to a rehab facility for a few weeks to improve their safety and independence with daily activities and mobility to allow for a safe return home. Throughout this time, all patients will continue with physical therapy treatment or recommended exercise program while also participating in post-operative follow-up visits with their surgeon

Physical Therapy and Total Joint Replacements

On average, most patients will participate in physical therapy or a recommended exercise program for 6-12 weeks following surgery. This exercise program will focus on achieving complete independence with daily activities and functional mobility. Beyond that, patients may continue with a focused exercise program to ensure they can return to other activities or hobbies that may have been limited before their surgery. Low-impact activities are generally recommended and safe for patients to return to after surgery. These activities include, but are not limited to walking, cycling, swimming, elliptical, strength training, golf, doubles tennis, pickleball, ballroom dancing, bowling, and gardening. High-impact activities with an increased risk of falling and damaging the replaced joint are generally not recommended. Patients should discuss with their surgeon and physical therapist what is best and safe to do following their joint replacement surgery.

If you are considering total joint replacement surgery, the talented orthopedic surgeons of Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin are here to help. To get the surgery process started, request an appointment online or call (414) 961-6800. After your surgery, our team of expert physical therapists will be here to see to your quick recovery.