About twenty years ago fresh out of university with a Kinesiology diploma in hand, little did I know the fate of my future expertise in hip and knee replacement exercises would begin immediately. I landed my first job in the community of West Vancouver at a facility that had just started a joint replacement exercise program in conjunction with the local hospital. I knew I was not going to be a trainer that sculpted bodies for aesthetic purposes like body building and I knew that rehabilitation fascinated me.

Sometimes when things are meant to be they happen fast. I had actually only started as an assistant to two lead instructors, but very surprisingly quickly, I was leading the whole program and now had a volunteer of my own. Together, myself and Susan were whole heartedly committed to the participants, to their healing and recovery, and to learning everything we could about knee and hip replacements.

Joint Replacement Exercise Specialization

The evolution of the joint replacement exercise program took a lot of dedicated work above and beyond what we were ever paid for, but we grew it from one class of 12 participants to 5 classes of 12 participants which started with 2 personal trainers and then required 10+ instructors trained in exercises for knee and hip replacement. The irony was that when we started this program back in 1998, there were zero protocols for safe exercise programs for clients preparing for or recovering from replacement surgery.

In fact, we were scared and timid to do anything that would cause a dislocation or pain that we immersed ourselves in being educated by physiotherapists and all information we could find on the subject. When we sat in a meeting with the physiotherapists at our local hospital and we heard for the first time they shared that these surgeries were so new, there was no research available on protocols. They went on to say, ‘we are the research, we are living it and experimenting daily, and we need to document what is working and what is not’.

Phew, what a responsibility to be one of many health professionals and practitioners that was braving the whole new development of safe, effective exercises for people who were recovering from and seeking treatment post knee and hip replacement surgery. We aired on the side of safety and caution all the time, but we found ourselves having to push the boundaries of what we did not know with only applying the sound scientific application of knowledge we already had about the body.

The Emergence of Exercise Protocols for Clients with Knee and Hip Replacement

With over 15 years of being a personal trainer and lead trainer for a joint replacement exercise program, training hundreds of clients, and experiencing what felt like every imaginable scenario, what emerged was a definitive set of exercise guidelines personal trainers can use to safely train knee and hip replacement clients pre and post surgery. In addition, a base exercise program was developed for the following:

It is important to reference here that there are stages of exercise protocols based on time post surgery date and what I have created is for people who are at least in the 6 weeks post operation time frame. If you are someone with arthritis or pre surgery, the pre operation exercises can be done at any time. In both exercise programs listed above, I have included pre and post surgery exercise guidelines for knee and hip replacement. There is a whole other set of exercise protocols used by physiotherapists for immediately post surgery within the first 4-6 weeks. Please see a physiotherapist to rehabilitate you immediately post surgery for the first 4-6 weeks.

Stretching, Strength, & Cardiovascular Recommendations for Knee & Hip Replacement

I mentioned earlier how intrigued I was about post rehabilitation exercise and you better be careful what you wish for because what I discovered with knee and hip replacement clients is an individual’s recovery is complicated by a number of factors. These can include: surgical procedure, current health condition including weight, diet, number of years in pain or compensation, adherence to exercise guidelines, rest, total volume of exercise in a day, stress, scar tissue, and complications.

However there is a specific series of exercises including stretches, cardiovascular options, and strength that can be applied to every knee and hip arthritis client varying only by incision type. The incision type mainly applies to hip replacement and as a client or trainer, you will want to clarify and know whether the incision was anterior, lateral, or posterior. The set of exercises and guidelines changes dependent on the incision type for hip replacement patients.

A complete exercise program for your best recovery or function pre and post replacement surgery should include cardiovascular, strength, and stretching exercises. It is the combination of the three of these together that will give you the best results. In fact there are additional factors like balance exercises, implementing one leg strength exercises, and gait training that also contribute greatly to your function. i cover these as well in the exercise programs listed above.

Passing on the Knowledge of Hip and Knee Replacement Exercises to Personal Trainers

When we grew from one class to the demands of 5 classes of 12 participants, so did the need for personal trainers knowledgeable in joint replacement exercise programming. Since my colleague Susan and I were the only one’s with the base of knowledge we started by doing all the program design and consultations for clients, but you get wiser! I knew we needed to compile all this information and share it with others for ease of training staff, but also to share our knowledge with other personal trainers around the world. So in time, a Joint Replacement Manual was created, then a one day training workshop, and now an online Joint Replacement Course for personal trainers.

The manual contains all the exercises we used with great effect for our clients as well as how to start your own community joint replacement program. The one day workshop is offered locally in Vancouver, B.C. and gave trainers the ability to apply their knowledge with hands on implementation and learning. Lastly, the online course captures all the information shared in the one day workshop including the manual and power points taught by video for personal trainers to learn from.

The Most Important Lesson Learned from Years as a Hip and Knee Replacement Personal Trainer

From everything I learned and the literally hundreds of clients I served, the number one lesson I learned that is crucial for your recovery is: exercise will drastically improve your ability and function to return to living with independence and lifestyle. Not only exercise, but also exercising for at least one year post surgery and preferably 2 years post surgery because you will still gain progress.

Exercise can postpone surgery and improve quality of life for those living with knee and hip arthritis.

Knowing the right type of exercise is imperative.

If you want the best quality of life living with arthritis or the best function post hip and knee replacement surgery, developing a weekly routine with a specialized exercise program will do that.

Wishing you all healthy joints, ease of movement, freedom with function, and exercises that heal and strengthen you for vitality!