Cycling and Total Knee Replacement

Thinking of getting a total knee replacement?  Here are some words of encouragement.

I spent my twenties running like a maniac, getting injured, not resting, and blowing apart the cartilage in my knees. By the time I was, uh, older than thirty, I had stopped running and switched over to cycling. It was a great alternative to running and I got another twenty years out of my beaten up knees.

But by 2009, the arthritis in my knees had reached a point of constant pain and the lack of cartilage in my left knee was sending sharp stabbing pains with every ride. Time to do something about it.

I assumed with all of my knee surgery experience that I had a good idea what I was in for with a total knee replacement. Nope. I had no clue.

Incredible Pain

The first 24 hours post-surgery were a piece of cake. The wonderful femoral block worked its magic and I was feeling absolutely no pain. So sweet. Then it wore off. Bummer. I dreaded the site of the physical therapist…hated her, actually.

Looking back, I made the mistake of comparing my total knee replacement recovery to others and it simply didn’t match up. Even though I was fairly young, super fit, and healthy, I was far below average. Who knows why it happened like that. My surgeon said he never would have predicted it.

Back in the Saddle

The good news is exactly a year after my TKR surgery, I was cycling up to the summit of Mt. Ventoux in France. I spent three heavenly weeks pedaling my bike in the Maritime Alps and thanking my lucky stars that I’ve got a shiny new knee that allows me to ride.

Here are a few things I found helpful

  • Take someone with you to your doctor appointments — especially important post-surgery when you’re taking pain meds, in fear, and NOT thinking clearly.
  • Keep a log of pain meds and be an open book with someone you trust on how much you are taking.
  • Keep a log of your physical therapy and don’t beat yourself up. You’ll recover on your own timeline.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone recovers at a different rate.
  • Have faith and don’t panic.
4 replies
  1. John Downes
    John Downes says:

    Hello Leann.

    Sorry to bug you and take up your time but you sound a lot like me. I was a competitive runner and after six knee opps have taken up the bike. Unfortunately at 56 I’m looking at getting both knees replaced. I train horses full time for a living and am still hoping to make an Olympic team. After years of being an elite athlete it is a bit of a shock to find that the surgeons think I will not be able to ride my 200 miles a week and earn living as a dressage rider!

    I was relived to see some one who thinks riding a bike is not down to the shops. Am I unrealistic to hope that I maybe able to return to my work and sport?

    Any feed back would be appreciated. John

  2. Chetan shah
    Chetan shah says:

    I had a uni compartmental knee surgery six months ago at age 44. Was always a sports loving person and led a active life. Within two months of surgery, started with cycling again. I cycle over 50K on every weekend. This is typically road biking with largely flat terrain and moderate level climbs as well.

    I stay in Mumbai, India.
    Chetan shah

  3. Gordon Brown
    Gordon Brown says:

    I had both knees replaced at the age of 67 and at age 70 continue to ski and bike tour but not aggressively over rugged terrain. My reading and experience on the subject suggests that the longevity of the replacement knees are directly proportional to the intensity of use. So if you want to get 20 years out of them, don’t attempt to do what you did when you were 20. i.e. “moderation in all things.”

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