Nearly all patients with whom I have worked, said to me “Once I get my joint replaced, my pain will be gone and I will be able to exercise and lose all the weight I have put on the past few years.” For the most part, these patients are half right. Total knee and total hip replacement reduces pain and improves your ability to walk, exercise and move without pain. However, sometimes having the surgery is the easy part. Once the pain is gone, it is hard to change your lifestyle to become more active and participate in the activities you had to give up because of the joint pain before your hip or knee replacement.

We performed a study that looked at 105 people before and up to two years after knee replacement. What we saw really surprised us. Nearly all of the patients patients had less pain, more strength, could walk a greater distance without pain and could walk up and down the stairs faster. That was not the surprising part. What did surprise us was the fact that 2/3 of our participants gained weight within two  years after their knee replacement. The average weight gain in those individuals was 14 pounds! So maybe you are thinking that everyone gains weight when they age. Well, we compared our patients after joint replacement to a group of 31 subjects without joint pain over two years. There was no change in weight in this control group. (Click Here for the news link about this article or Click Here to access the research report)

These results are not unique to our study. More evidence continues to suggest that patients after joint replacement surgery gain a large amount of weight. A recent study by Dr. Daniel Riddle from Virginia Commonwealth University. This study had a much larger sample size (nearly 1,000 subjects) and they also compared weight gain to a control group. They found that patients after knee replacement were more likely to demonstrate weight gain of at least 5% of their body weight. Younger patients, particularly those who may have lost weight before surgery, were most at risk for putting the weight back on. What’s even more concerning was that gaining weight was also a risk factor for needing another joint replacement in the future. (Click Here for the news link about this article or Click Here to access the research report)

I am not going to stand on a soapbox and tell you to get out and exercise and you need to lose weight. However, keep in mind that the surgery usually fixes the pain. The physical therapy after surgery usually fixes the weakness and stiffness. Typically we don’t prescribe anything to help with post-operative lifestyle changes. If your knee or hip feels better and you feel stronger, take advantage of that. Change your lifestyle and go back to the activities that you used to love before the pain stopped you. Soon we will have recommended low-impact exercises for patients after joint replacement, so check back to soon or email us if you have any questions.

We would love to hear your weight loss or weight gain stories after joint replacement. Feel free to leave us a comment!

— Written by:

Joseph Zeni, Jr. PT, PhD