The early morning sun is rising, the bright rays making the treetops look as though they are going to burst into flames. The fresh, cool mountain air fills your lungs as you inhale. It’s nothing but you, the open trail, and the mystical sounds of nature.
The smell of the dew on the leaves and the gentle breeze invigorates your soul. One last breath, then you’re off. Your feet pound the earth with a rhythmic beat that centers your mind and takes you away from this deranged world we live in.
If this sounds familiar, then you’re probably a runner. For many, running is a way to release excess energy and get rid of negative thoughts. It’s a way to sort out feelings with the added benefit of staying in shape. For others, it’s just about competition with others or beating your own personal record.
Whatever your motivation may be, running for pleasure is not something that everyone understands. It’s a way of life that takes dedication and self-discipline. If a total knee replacement has thrown a wrench in this plan, don’t throw in the towel just yet!
From TKA Recovery to Running
I’m sure you’re wondering if you’ll ever be back to running the trails after your total knee replacement. In most cases yes, you absolutely can get back to running. However, just because you can doesn’t always mean that you should.
You may have a new joint, but you need to remember that running is an extremely high-impact activity that puts a lot of strain on your joints and body. Following your doctor’s advice, taking the necessary precautions, and listening to your body are always important when recovering from a total knee replacement.
It is really important to discuss the topic of running again with your doctors. Then consider the risks yourself to decide whether it’s worth it.
- Are you a cross-country runner?
- Are you actively participating in track and field events or other high-impact sports?
- Are you a seriously passionate runner; one of those obsessed people we see running down the highway during a monsoon or full-blown blizzard while we are in our dry vehicles shaking our heads?
- Do you just like to go for a jog once in a while?
- Do you run marathons or other long-distance races?
Other factors to take into consideration are how healthy and fit you were before having a total knee replacement. If you are an active person who runs often and stays in shape, then you will likely have a successful recovery with limited complications.
People who are in an overall good physical condition are typically able to continue their normal activities once they are healed. Your lifestyle and how your recovery is progressing will determine if you will be able to run again.
Proper Prehab and Rehab Will Help Get You Running Again
If you want to be able to run again, it’s necessary to be aggressive about doing your prehab and rehab exercises. The key to a successful recovery is to take your time and do what the therapist recommends.
People with the most successful results keep a routine for their exercises. Stay moving every 30 minutes or so to avoid stiffness and keep working your knee to improve extension and range of motion.
Don’t try to rush your recovery. In the long run, you could end up with more issues and be less likely to do the things you originally could.
In the end, it really comes down to 2 things. How strong is your leg and how much do you weigh.
If your leg becomes strong enough to support the impact of running on your new knee then you will be fine. As well as if you are obese or overweight. For each step with running a force of 3-8x your body weight goes through your knee joint. The less your body weighs, the less accumulative load through the prosthesis and the longer the knee replacement will last.
Absorb the Shock So You Can Rock
After some recovery time, and once you’ve got the green light from your doctor, you should be able to run again. Just keep in mind, the running experience may be a little harder on your joints now. To help with the impact that your joints will be receiving from this activity, consider using products designed to absorb shock.
The following items are examples of shock-absorbing items that you can use to prevent or reduce pain or damage to your joints:
- Shock-absorbing running shoes. These shoes are designed to absorb the shock that comes from the impact while you run.
- Shock-absorbing insoles. Simply slide into your running shoes to give you that extra cushion and support you need.
- Shock-absorbing socks. An additional layer for even more padding while you run. These are great because they are designed to prevent blistering and absorb sweat as well.
- Knee braces for extra stability. Check with your doctor first to see if they think you will need one. Sometimes using a brace can make you dependent on it and you won’t build your muscle strength back up the way you should. On the other hand, starting out with a knee brace is a safe way to return to running.
How Running Impacts Your Knee Joints
Low Impact Yields High Results
If you choose not to run again, make sure you find a low-impact replacement. Just because you’re not running, does not mean you should skip out on physical activity altogether. There are plenty of low-impact exercise options.
Low-impact exercises are key to recovering successfully, so if you do plan on running again stick to low-impact activities until you are healed and ready to start running again.
Some examples of low-impact exercises that you can do are:
- Elliptical training
- Tai Chi
The exercises above are all great for those who are not able to participate in high-impact activities and exercises. The great thing about all of the activities is that they work your whole body from your core. Even if you don’t pick up running again, you’ll be in great overall health if you find a routine and stick to it.
Replace Doesn’t Mean Ruin
Just remember that having your knee replaced doesn’t mean that you are ruined. Having a strong will and determination can get you back to running if that’s what you choose to do. Listen to your doctor, listen to your body, and consider investing in products to minimize the impact running has on your newly repaired joints.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.