Can I climb stairs after a knee replacement? (2024)

climbing stairs

Learn about the impact of a knee replacement on your ability to climb stairs. This blog, written by a Kinesiology student, explains the research related to stair climbing after a knee replacement.

  • Can I climb stairs after a knee replacement? (1)

    Milena Pilipovic

    Fourth-year undergraduate Kinesiology student at the University of Toronto. A personal trainer and former athlete passionate about healthy active living and helping others through physical activity.

    More posts by Milena Pilipovic.

Milena Pilipovic

4 min read

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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 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] For more information, check out our blog on what exercises and activities you can do after a total knee replacement.


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, physical therapy app for patients that can help you start your exercise rehab process. It provides you with physical therapy plans, physical therapy videos, ways to measure and monitor your progress, such as measuring your knee or hip range of motion, and much more! Download the Curovate App by clicking on the links below.

Can I climb stairs after a knee replacement? (7)Can I climb stairs after a knee replacement? (8)

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]

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 a post knee replacement exercise rehabilitation program. Curovate is an evidence-based, physical therapy app for patients that can help you start your exercise rehab process. It provides you with physical therapy plans, physical therapy videos, ways to measure and monitor your progress, such as measuring your knee or hip range of motion, and much more! Download the Curovate App by clicking on the links below.

If you need further customized assistance during your surgery or injury recovery check out our Virtual Physical Therapy page to book your 1-on-1 video session with a physical therapist.

Can I climb stairs after a knee replacement? (9)Can I climb stairs after a knee replacement? (10)
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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.

As a seasoned fitness enthusiast and someone deeply immersed in the field of kinesiology, I can confidently delve into the intricacies of the impact of knee replacement on stair climbing, drawing from a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Milena Pilipovic, a fourth-year undergraduate Kinesiology student at the University of Toronto, has penned an insightful blog post exploring the aftermath of knee replacement surgery, particularly in the context of climbing stairs. With a background as a personal trainer and former athlete, Milena approaches this subject with a passion for promoting healthy, active living and aiding others through physical activity.

The central question addressed is whether individuals can safely climb stairs after undergoing knee replacement surgery. The blog cites scientific research to support its claims, providing a comprehensive overview of the implications of knee replacement on stair climbing ability.

Scientific Evidence and Research Findings:

  1. Force on the Knee During Stair Climbing: The blog highlights that climbing stairs exerts significantly more force on the knee compared to activities like walking or rising from a chair. In fact, it states that stair climbing imposes a force three times greater than the individual's body weight on the knee, emphasizing the potential concerns associated with this activity post-knee replacement.

    Evidence: D’Lima et al.'s study is referenced, which reveals the increased moments and shear on the knee after total knee arthroplasty, underlining the biomechanical aspects of stair climbing.

  2. Feasibility of Stair Climbing After Knee Replacement: Contrary to the apprehensions raised by the increased force, Milena presents reassuring findings. Studies, such as the one conducted by Swanson and colleagues, indicate that over 95% of individuals face no limitations in engaging in stair climbing after knee replacement. This positive outlook extends to other low-impact activities like walking, biking, swimming, and golf.

    Evidence: The study by Swanson and colleagues is cited, providing empirical support for the claim that stair climbing is feasible post-knee replacement.

  3. Patient Satisfaction and Movement Abilities: The blog cites research by Weiss and colleagues, revealing that 81% of individuals are satisfied with their total knee replacement. However, it's crucial to note that knee replacement surgery doesn't fully restore the ease associated with normal knee function.

    Evidence: Weiss et al.'s study is referenced to substantiate claims about patient satisfaction and the impact on movement abilities after knee replacement.

  4. Post-Surgery Limitations and Rehabilitation Needs: Walsh and colleagues' study is invoked to shed light on the limitations experienced by individuals even a year after knee replacement surgery. Stair climbing is reported to be significantly slower, and there is a reduction in muscle strength around the knee.

    Evidence: Walsh et al.'s study provides insights into the lingering effects of knee replacement surgery on activity levels and physical abilities.

  5. Rehabilitation and High-Impact Activities: The blog recommends low-impact activities like stair climbing but cautions against high-impact activities such as running, although acknowledging instances where individuals successfully engage in them. The importance of effective exercise rehabilitation programs, such as the Curovate app, is highlighted for restoring muscle strength after knee replacement.

    Evidence: Swanson and colleagues' study is revisited to support the recommendation for low-impact activities, and the Curovate app is introduced as an evidence-based physical therapy resource.

In conclusion, Milena Pilipovic's blog provides a comprehensive overview of the impact of knee replacement on stair climbing, backed by scientific evidence from reputable studies in the field. The insights shared offer valuable guidance for individuals navigating post-knee replacement rehabilitation and activity planning.

Can I climb stairs after a knee replacement? (2024)
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