The knee is a fragile part of humans' bodies, so it is important to protect the knee. Knee replacement surgery is, unfortunately, a relatively common operation that many older Americans require. Usually, this type of surgery is necessary for knee joint damage from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or injury. With any of these conditions, the cartilage that cushions the knee joint can break down, resulting in bone rubbing against bone. When that happens, it can be pretty painful! However, you might find that cycling after knee replacement surgery is challenging due to the after-effects of the surgery itself.
If you are looking to start bike riding after knee replacement surgery, here are three steps you can do to get back out there on your e-bike!
First, before trying to cycle, you will need a period of physical therapy. The surgery itself will cause a certain level of stiffness, discomfort, and pain as you use your knee. Through physical therapy, you'll be able to work through those feelings and get your knee back in good shape.
For those who haven't been in physical therapy before, you should know that it's not easy. After knee replacement surgery, your body is effectively getting adjusted to a prosthetic knee. It won't bend or work quite the same way as the old cartilage did. Most people spend about two weeks in a rehab center after this type of surgery. During this time, the rehab center will work with patients to progress from needing a walker to walk to crutches and eventually nothing at all.
Some people leave rehab early or don't go at all. However, regardless of whether you do the exercises in recovery or you do them at home, you'll still need some physical movements to get your full knee motion back!
It's worth noting that most rehab centers won't permit you to go back home until you can at least climb stairs and walk. The logic, of course, is that if you cannot even do these two activities, it will be challenging to move about your house. The faster you can go through physical therapy, the quicker you can get back cycling again!
Once you've passed physical therapy and have a reasonable range of motion (typically 90 degrees), you can start working on bicycling again. However, you don't want to ride outside at this time. That typically requires too much effort and physical exertion on the knee. At this point, you're still building up your former strength.
Instead, most people recommend using a stationary bicycle (like the ones you can find in almost any gym or the ones you can buy for home) and using that to get back into the rhythm of cycling.
You won't bicycle like normal, however. At this point, your knee won't have a significant range of motion. You'll need to adjust your seat height so that you minimize this range for your knees to start. The right seat height, to begin with, is typically the height where there's only a slight bend in your knees when you rest your feet on the pedals below.
Please also note that you may not be able to complete a full revolution on a stationary bike at first. That's ok. Getting back cycling after knee replacement surgery can take many months, so you should never feel the need to push yourself at any stage. Take it slow and gradually work your way up. First, complete a full revolution with a minimal knee bend, and then adjust the seat so that you get more flexibility in your joints. Eventually, you'll be cycling like old times!
Finally, consult with your doctor before starting any physical activity plan! Your doctor can help guide you through your rehabilitation and provide valuable guidance along the way.
Typically, the indoor riding time is about 4-6 weeks until you start to feel a broader range of motion in your knees. Once you have that motion, you'll generally receive clearance from your doctor to try some outdoor cycling.
At this point, you can get back on your e-bike and go outside again!
However, there are numerous precautions that you'll want to keep in mind as you start to ride outside of your home.
First, always heed your doctor's advice. Your doctor will likely give you suggestions and ideas for how to tackle the outdoors again. Talk with them about your route ideas, expected exercise length, and so forth to ensure that your plans won't re-aggravate your knee.
Once you have your doctor's guidance, please make sure that you take your time cycling. Going full-speed outdoors is very different than stationary biking. For starters, you need much more balance when you're doing the real thing! Don't start by going too fast or too far. A few laps around the block should be plenty to start.
This point should go without saying, but if you begin to feel any pain - no matter how small it might seem initially - take a break. You don't want to re-aggravate your joints! Stop cycling, find a bench or stand somewhere, and enjoy the scenery. When the pain subsides, you can resume your biking!
Of course, this is where e-bikes come in handy. If you have an e-bike that can power itself on its own (i.e., no pedaling required), you can always set it to full-electricity mode to take you home if you feel too much pain! That way, you won't have to risk any further damage!
Finally, please keep in mind that you'll typically need a few weeks of some lighter outdoor cycling before working your way up to more intensive workouts.
Cycling After Knee Replacement Surgery: You Can Get Back on a Bike!
While bike riding after knee replacement might seem daunting at first, it's entirely achievable. For both men and women, bike commuting is sometimes the way to get to work. Therefore, the inability to use a bike might not just be an inconvenience, but a potential issue keeping their job!
Fortunately, recovery after knee replacement surgery is not impossible! Thousands of Americans do it annually, and you will recover and get back cycling too!