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Posted on in Orthopedics

Getting Back to Life – and Work – after Joint Replacement

Medically reviewed by Michael Sutton, DO McLeod Orthopaedics Dillon

“Two of the primary benefits of a total knee or hip joint replacement are less pain and more life, thanks to the ability to move again,” says Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Michael Sutton of McLeod Orthopaedics Dillon. “As more joint replacements are being performed on young and younger patients, a key question they ask is: ‘When can I get back to work?’”Let’s layout a possible timeline for your recovery after joint replacement surgery:

1 DAY:  

Physical Therapy begins. Your overall recovery will largely depend on how dedicated you are to the physical therapy program. Stick with it. You may be walking a few steps with a cane or walker and sitting on the side of the bed or in a chair.


Climbing up and down a few steps and getting on and off the toilet may be added to your physical therapy. When you do start climbing stairs at home, remember this: Going up, step with your UNoperated leg first.  Lift your operated leg.  Going down, put your operated leg first, followed by your UNoperated leg. 


Pain is normal after the operation.  You may need painkillers for 6 to 8 weeks, especially to help you sleep through the night.

Walkers or crutches may no longer be needed.

Driving could vary because every person recovers at a different rate.  You can begin driving when you can begin bending your knee and with your doctor’s approval).  A patient might resume at six weeks if your right knee was replaced.  If it was your left knee and your car has an automatic transmission, your doctor may approve your driving sooner.


Return to Work can be considered at 6 to 8 weeks if your job involves office work and other light activities. You may want to phase in a return to work: week one, 3 half days; week two, 2 full days; week three, 5 half-days; week 4, fulltime. 

Jobs with heavy lifting or similar duties may require 12 weeks before returning.  Returning to work is a very realistic expectation following total joint replacement.  Studies have shown that more than 95% of people below aged 60, who had a job before the procedure, will return to work. 


Swelling is common after surgery and may last for 3 months. Apply ice, when needed.

Swimming, golfing, bicycling and other low-impact activities can probably be undertaken.  However, avoid contact sports and high impact aerobics or running.

Heavy Household Chores, such as changing the beds, should be avoided until about 12 weeks after surgery.  Light chores, such as dusting or washing dishes can be done as soon at you are comfortable.


Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.  

Sources include:  McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Foundation for the Advancement of Research in Medicine, Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons, National Health Service (UK), Arthritis Research Foundation


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