The other night as I was sitting with my family for our Canadian Thanksgiving, my aunt shares she is on the list and now waiting for a knee replacement which is about 18 months away, but wants to know what she can be doing now to prepare herself. This is such a powerful approach because you are not just meant to wait and be a passive patient as there is so much you can do right now to minimize pain, and prepare your knee and body for an optimal recovery post surgery.
Prepare for Knee Replacement Surgery – Keep Moving!
Arthritis is kind of like a teenager that sends mixed messages and communicates with irony because the pain and stiffness you experience may lead you to stop moving because it is hard or it hurts. However, and perhaps contrary to what you may expect, the arthritis in your knees needs you to keep moving daily! Where the secret to moving successfully comes in, is in choosing the right movement to limit pain, have optimal range of motion, and give your heart some great cardiovascular conditioning.
My aunt shared she is already going into the pool and is also using a stationary bike. Ding ding ding! These are the two best cardiovascular options pre knee replacement surgery because they are non weight bearing. However depending on the amount of pain you have and your bone health, you may also want to keep walking while being mindful of how much is the right amount to keep you out of pain and inflammation.
Exercise Goals Pre Knee Replacement
Maybe you too have knee arthritis or are waiting for knee replacement surgery trying to figure out what knee exercises you should be doing prior to surgery. If that is you, a big high five is coming your way right now because very few people take action ahead of time, but those who do feel better while they wait and recover faster and stronger than those who do nothing to prepare.
One of the first goals is to maintain as much range of motion around your knee joint as possible keeping in mind you never want to force your joint and should always only work through your pain free range of motion. The two key range of motions you have at your knee joint are flexion and extension. Each of you will have a different challenge here where some of you may be limited in flexion and others in extension. There are many great exercises for knee flexion and extension. One resource for you is the Knee Replacement Exercise Program that includes pre and post surgery exercises.
What about strength exercises pre knee replacement surgery? It may seem with the pain you have that you should not be doing or could not do any strength exercises prior to knee surgery, but there are safe muscular endurance knee exercises that are extremely beneficial for you to do now. No you will not be lifting any heavy weight with knee arthritis to maintain strength pre surgery, but you can build the muscles around your knee and hip joint to give you more stability and strength.
Building strength in your quadriceps muscle will help you recover faster post knee replacement surgery.
Choosing and executing knee strength exercises correctly when you have knee arthritis can be challenging on your own. I would highly recommend learning from a trained professional what exercises are best for you and how to do them properly. A personal trainer who specializes in arthritis or joint replacement surgery is a great option or even going to a physiotherapist could be beneficial.
If you want to learn them on your own or keep the cost down, you could also learn them from my Knee Replacement Exercise program which has pictures and video to demonstrate proper technique.
The Holistic Pre Knee Replacement Surgery Preparation Approach
There is actually more than exercise that your body will need prior to knee replacement surgery. Eating a healthy diet rich with anti inflammatory foods will do wonders for your arthritis and also your weight which can decrease pain and swelling in your knees. If you do have a few pounds to lose so there is less load on your knees, seek the help of a nutritionist or dietitian for meal planning ideas and solutions.
Managing your pain is going to be key for both your quality of life and also so you can keep moving while you are waiting for surgery. There are many natural pain relieving options such as topical creams, CBD oil, supplements such as Krill oil, and even herbs. You will also have the options of medical pain relieving injections, stem cells, and more. Many people manage their arthritis pain with over the counter pain pills.
My recommendation to you is to do your research and be aware of the science and side effects of each one and choose which one suits you best and works for you. Do not forget the healing power of ice on swollen, inflammed joints and also rest and elevation.
This blog post on preparing for knee replacement surgery while on the wait list would not be complete if it did not also talk about the impact of stress on your body, your arthritis, the ability heal, and overall health including your heart. If you have physical, mental or emotional stress in your life, that absolutely is affecting your arthritis and your body’s ability to be healthy. It will be crucial to minimize stress in your life and also have stress management practices in place to provide an internal state that is optimal for health.
Kudo’s to you for learning what you can do while waiting for your new knee! The best next step for you is to begin an overall exercise program and have the guidance of an expert to oversee your technique or teach you how to do the exercises correctly. My comprehensive guide on knee replacement exercises pre and post surgery is a great resource to get you started. You can check it out here. Here’s to staying strong, supple, moving, and out of pain while you wait!