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Can I climb stairs after a knee replacement?

Did you recently have a knee replacement and are wondering if you can climb stairs? Climbing stairs is a task that places substantially more force on the knee compared to walking and getting up from a chair. [1] In fact, climbing stairs places a force three times greater than your body weight on the knee. [1] This may all sound scary, so the question is should you be climbing stairs after a knee replacement?


People CAN Climb Stairs Even After a Knee Replacement


Luckily, studies have shown that you can engage in stair climbing, along with many other more difficult activities, even after a total knee replacement. [4] For example, a research study by Swanson and colleagues found that more than 95% of people had no limitations engaging in stair climbing after knee replacement; this also includes other low-impact activities such as walking, biking, swimming, and golf. [2] Likewise, after knee replacement, most people are satisfied with their movement abilities. A study by Weiss and colleagues shows that 81% of people were satisfied with their total knee replacement. [4]


The Impact of Knee Replacement Surgery

Although knee replacement does not prevent you from climbing stairs, it is important to note that surgery does not restore the ease associated with normal knee function. [4] According to Walsh and colleagues, people undergoing knee replacement experienced limitations in activity levels and physical abilities even one year after surgery. [3] Stair climbing was 51% and 43% slower in males and females respectively compared to their ability to stair climb before surgery. [3] Likewise, men with total knee replacement were 37% to 39% weaker and did 36% to 37% less total work with their knees compared to individuals without knee replacement. [3] Women with total knee replacement had around a 28% reduction in knee extensor muscle strength and performed 24% less total work. [3] An effective exercise rehabilitation program is crucial for restoring muscle strength after knee replacement. Curovate is an evidence-based app that can help you start your exercise rehab process, providing you with physical therapy plans, daily video exercises, ways to measure and monitor your progress, and much more! Download the Curovate App by clicking on the links below.

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Recommendations for High-Impact Activities

While low-impact activities such as stair climbing are encouraged, some surgeons recommend avoiding high-impact activities such as running.[2] There are still reports of people taking part in high-impact activities successfully after knee replacement. In the study by Swanson and colleagues [2], 10% of people report running distances of up to a mile since knee replacement. Many people also participated in a broad range of activities that impose a significant load on the knee, including gardening, squatting, dancing, kneeling, and carrying heavy items. [2] Check out our blog to find out more about what exercises and activities you can do after a total knee replacement.

Conclusion

Climbing stairs loads the knee more than walking and getting up from a chair.[1] However, many people still engage in stair climbing even after a total knee replacement. [4] Many people are also very satisfied with their activity levels after knee replacement. [4] However, total knee replacement does not restore the ease associated with normal knee function. [4] Research shows that people climb stairs slower after knee replacement; they also have a reduction in muscle strength around the knee and complete less total knee work. [4] Restoring muscle strength after knee replacement so that you can engage in activities such as stair climbing effectively can be done with the help of an exercise rehabilitation program. Curovate provides you with an evidence-based app that can help you with daily exericses and recovery. You can also use the app to measure your knee range of motion.

Download the Curovate App by clicking on the links below.


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References

1. D’Lima DD, Patil S, Steklov N, Chien S, Colwell Jr CW. In vivo knee moments and shear after total knee arthroplasty. Journal of biomechanics. 2007 Jan 1;40:S11-7.

2. Swanson EA, Schmalzried TP, Dorey FJ. Activity recommendations after total hip and knee arthroplasty: a survey of the American Association for Hip and Knee Surgeons. The Journal of arthroplasty. 2009 Sep 1;24(6):120-6.

3. Walsh M, Woodhouse LJ, Thomas SG, Finch E. Physical impairments and functional limitations: a comparison of individuals 1 year after total knee arthroplasty with control subjects. Physical therapy. 1998 Mar 1;78(3):248-58.

4. Weiss, Jennifer M. MD*; Noble, Philip C. PhD*; Conditt, Michael A. PhD**; Kohl, Harold W. PhD*; Roberts, Seth BS*; Cook, Karon F. PhD*; Gordon, Michael J. MD*; Mathis, Kenneth B. MD*. What Functional Activities Are Important to Patients With Knee Replacements?. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research: November 2002 - Volume 404 - Issue - p 172-188.