Work Restrictions After Total Knee Replacement

Even though most people get back to work after knee replacement surgery, a small proportion of people do not.

Work Restrictions After Total Knee Replacement

A study concluded that around 85 percent of knee replacement patients returned to work within 12 months of their surgery.

 (Return to work and workplace activity limitations following total hip or knee replacement https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1063458413008418 )

On average, you can get back to light work within 4-6 weeks of your knee surgery and to mild heavy work within 6-10 weeks. Consult your orthopedic surgeon before you do so. Also, take consult before starting any new sports or heavy physical activity.

If you are unable to get back to work after your surgery, worry not since you can claim financial aid from Social Security.

Let us take you through some essential points to help you get back to your job fast. Also, we’ll give you some pointers to glide through your work hours easily without damaging your new knee implant.

Factors Helping Patients to Return to Work

The study mentioned above helps to understand this. It concluded that in many post-surgery cases, patients were able to return to their jobs even within a month of surgery. 

It showed that patients who returned to work sooner had university degrees or worked in businesses, finance, and administration. Also, males returned to work sooner than females. Those with less demanding physical jobs returned sooner as compared to others.

Another study placed a time frame of 8 to 12 weeks as the average time taken to return to work after normal knee healing. (Return to work after total hip and knee arthroplasty: a systematic review https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24273048)

The following factors mainly govern getting back to work after surgery.

  • Successful surgery – decreased pain and stiffness in the knee after surgery helps to get back to work soon. 
  • An active recovery – people with a higher activity level such as walking and cycling post-surgery tend to recover faster.
  • Physiotherapy – physiotherapy sessions help increase the range of motion of the knee. It means faster recovery and faster return to work. 
  • Pragmatic reasons – financial constraints, and the need to earn a livelihood, together act as motivation to get back to work.
  • Psychological factors – desire to get back to work itself is a strong driving force.
  • Escape from boredom – many want to escape boredom and long resting hours post-surgery and prefer getting back on jobs.
  • Job flexibility – this factor acts as a positive influence for people motivated to return to their work.

 

You might also like History‌ ‌Of‌ ‌Knee‌ Replacement‌

 

What You Can and Can’t Do on Returning to Work

A full recovery from knee replacement surgery can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months. Most people return to work during this time. Sometimes recovery can take even longer depending on individual conditions such as age, kind of surgery, body strength, compliance to physical therapy, etc.

senior businessman sitting in his office
A businessman sitting for a long period on his office

When back at work, you need to keep a few things in mind to help you through your work hours. It will also help prevent any damage to your knee implants. 

The below-mentioned information is based on various medical opinions and studies. It will help you understand what you can and can’t do when you return to work.

1. Work Involving Long Sitting Hours

Sitting in one position for long hours can increase your chances of getting leg clots. It is especially true during the first month after surgery. 

Don’t sit in one position for more than 45-60 minutes. Move around when possible.  

2. Low Impact Work

All low-impact activities that do not put stress on your knee implants, or damage them in any way, can be done safely.

You can return to such kinds of jobs within six weeks of surgery. Returning to work can be done in phases. Initially, you can join for half a day. Gradually, this could be increased to a full day of work over the coming weeks, depending on your condition.

Since many of you may still have balance issues, use handrails and other support systems wherever available.

Walk slow. Take well-planted steady steps.

3. High Impact Work

Avoid high-impact activities that may lead to a fall or damage to the knee implants.

4. Athletic Work

In the initial days, most surgeons advise against work that involves jumping or running to prevent knee implants from damage 

Running after knee replacement surgery is harmful when done immediately. One has to be put on a gradual progress program to start sports. It is a must, especially for active sports, once the recovery period passes smoothly. Jumping is inadvisable at all times. If your job involves any of the above, it is suggested that you consult your orthopedic surgeon first.

 

You might also like How Long After Knee Replacement Can You Fly?

 

5. Sports or Work That Requires Quickly Changing Directions

You will have to avoid all activities where there is a chance of sudden twisting or jerking of the knee joint. e.g., soccer, rugby, gymnastics, hockey, etc

However, sports such as cycling, swimming, and golf are low-impact activities and can be enjoyed.

6. Jobs Involving Kneeling

There is no clinically supported contraindication for kneeling after knee surgery. It means that you can kneel after knee replacement, after healing. Though initially, most people are unable to kneel because of discomfort, it gradually improves over time with physical training.

7. Jobs That Involve Picking Heavy Things

When you have a knee implant, you will have to avoid picking up very heavy objects. It is to protect your new implant from damage due to high stress. 

lifting heavy package
Delivery man lifting a heavy package

If your job requires you to do the same, then you first need to train for it. Training programs are designed to help you build your resistance gradually without damaging the implant. Even with proper training, picking up heavy objects is permanently contraindicated.

Even after all these precautions, many people still do not get back to their jobs. It is interesting to find out what influences their decision to do this.

Who Does Not Return to Work After Knee Replacement?

A study showed that 38% of the patients did not return to work after knee replacement surgery. (Which patients do not return to work after total knee arthroplasty? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4983277/)

The main factors inferred from this study that led people to leave their jobs permanently were,

  • Cases where patients developed knee symptoms due to the nature of their jobs.
  • Very physically demanding jobs.
  • Women were more inclined to leave their jobs permanently as compared to men. It could be due to personal or family commitments.
  • Patients with a Basal Metabolic Index (BMI) of more than 30 (obese patients).

 

You might also like How Long to Wear Compression Stockings After Knee Replacement Surgery?

 

Sum Up

Knee joints take a lot of beating throughout life. Your knee implants can also take a lot of stress, but you have to tread cautiously with them. 

It is, therefore, important that after your knee surgery, you complete your rehabilitation program, as advised, for faster recovery. Next, you should take clearance from your orthopedic surgeon when you want to get back to work. 

Just avoid any activities that will damage your knee implant due to high-stress forces such as twisting and jerking. 

The same goes if you are looking forward to getting back to other activities including driving, hiking, skiing, yoga, bike riding, etc. You must follow a series of precautions and tips during your recovery phase. As they all say, it is better to be safe than sorry.

About Gaurav Dhir

Gaurav Dhir, B. Tech, is an engineer by training. He also holds the degree of PGDCM from the prestigious IIM Calcutta. Gaurav is responsible for the health and wellness of 4 generations including his son, elderly parents and very elderly grandparents. He is a wellness aficionado and loves keeping and staying healthy.