How Much Weight Can You Lift After Total Knee Replacement

Knee Replacement Lifting Restrictions —

After you return home after your knee replacement and short hospital stay, your instinct is to return to normal activities including household chores and activities.  Not so fast! 

lifting after knee replacement

Normal daily activities can involve lifting and turning, sometimes while holding heavy objects, can potentially placing you in a bind and increase the chance for injury to your knee.

Most orthopedic surgeons will place a lifting limit of 10 pounds for the first 4-6 weeks at home after knee replacement similar to that of lifting restrictions after a hip replacement.

Check with your surgeon’s office on their specific rules and check your discharge instructions from the hospital.  I would advise you to strictly follow this lifting restriction to reduce any potential injury or damage to your new artificial knee joint.

Most people searching for this answer are doing so in the early part of their return home after knee replacement and if that’s you, likely you are considering lifting something of some weight around your home.  Just a quick reminder that your focus needs to be on your knee replacement recovery and safety. 

Considering lifting any weight in the first month after returning home raises a red flag and I am here to remind you to have someone else carry or lift anything of significant weight once you are home and recovering from your knee surgery. 

Avoid Lifting These Things After Your Knee Replacement

As you are likely aware now, there are hundreds of items around your home that weigh more than 10 pounds and you will need to avoid lifting for now.  Simple grocery items such as bags of pet food, frozen bags of meat, cases of water and many other items are simply too heavy to carry after a knee replacement.

More than just groceries, other items including pets, babies, laundry, backpacks, small appliances, full drink containers and even furniture can often times be problematic in the early at home timeframe. 

Make sure someone else in your home can handle these items for the first few weeks after surgery until your doctor or PT clears you to do so.  Sorry, those grandkids will have to wait a little while longer for you to lift them up like you normally do.

Household Chores To Avoid After Knee Replacement

An important piece to remember is that not only is it a 10 pound weight restriction, this also includes chores or tasks that would require more than 10 pounds of body force to perform.  Chores such as laundry, vacuuming, cleaning, dusting, making the bed, emptying the dishwasher and cooking can all be problematic.

vacuum after knee replacement

Do not try to carry anything up and down the stairs as combining these two tasks can set up for problems.  Using common sense in these decisions can go a long way. You chose to have this new knee so it should make sense to follow the rules and be extra cautious. 

Basic rule of thumb is if any household chore feels like its any work at all, avoid it.  

Instead of squatting to empty the dishwasher, have someone else remove the items. After they are out of the dishwasher, you can then place them in the drawer or cabinet.  

Fold the laundry once it is out of the dryer but don’t take part in the removal of it from the washer or dryer.  No, this does not mean to avoid any physical activity at all and no you should not sleep or lounge all day long. 

I always recommend to my patients to stay active with simple tasks like walking and avoid moderate lifting.  

Why Can’t I Lift Items After My Knee Replacement?

You are thinking to yourself “Why can’t I lift my grandchild after my knee replacement?”  Yes it might seem silly from your side of things but there’s good reason your surgeon would take the time to limit you on this.  They are not doing it for fun so there must reasons and yes there are.

First, when you are carrying an item of any weight whether it be 5, 10 or 50 pounds the issue isn’t when you are standing still.  The concern arises when you begin to move or turn while holding any object of weight.  99% of the time if you are holding a 10 pound item close to your body and you turn, there’s really no major strain on your knees.  

However, say you take that 10 pound bag and hold it away from your body them make a slight turn.  This turn alone will place a significantly increased amount of stress on your leg and knee. Even if you are performing the turn safely within your knee precautions this is something you should avoid.  

Worst case scenario is that you hold the item away from your body and by mistake pivot or twist on you your new knee which can greatly increase your risk of knee damage.  Yes, even that extra 5 or 10 pounds makes a difference so please do abide by your surgeon’s rules

What If I Live Alone or With Someone Else Physically Limited?

Often times your spouse also has their own physical limitations in the home. Your spouse may be relied upon for help in mobility situations when you return home.  If they are unable to do so, a decision will need to be made if returning home is a safe option.  

The first option is to have outside help assisting with lifting items more than 10 lbs in the early days home.  If this is not available then it might be a good idea to plan ahead and simply avoid the need to lift anything heavy around the house for the next month after returning home.  This scenario may be unrealistic and hopefully will not be the case and outside help can check in for these situations.  

I would not advise those who live alone to return home too soon after total knee replacement.  A 2-3 week inpatient rehab stay at a local facility equipped with daily physical and occupational therapy training would be the best choice.    

Yes the lifting restrictions may still be in place once you return home however you will be much more able to adapt to your home quickly and hopefully not require any significant lifting early on.  Be prepared and plan ahead for your return home prior to surgery. 

Heavy Lifting After Knee Replacement?

For those who have had their knees replaced months ago and are now back to resuming normal activities, it is common to ask when you can resume normal lifting and if needed heavy lifting activities after your knee replacement surgery. 

When talking about normal lifting, refer back to the restrictions placed by your surgeon and normally that means lifting over 10 pounds can resume after 6 weeks from your surgery date.  It would be wise to reinstate lifting on a slow cautious basis between 2-4 months of surgery simply to make sure your body is ready for the additional stress of the lift. 

For heavy lifting needs above 40-50 pounds, whether associated with your occupation after return to work or tasks around the home, you will need to be cautious performing these heavier lifts. 

I would suggest that you continue to limit your pivoting and twisting on that surgery leg for a few months after surgery and even beyond.  Also, when doing any moderate to heavy lifting after knee replacement make sure to turn towards your non-surgical leg at all costs to ensure safety.  

During any lift whether heavy or light make sure to perform a proper lifting technique, keeping the object close to your body at all times and performing the bend in a semi-squat technique.  You should always be aware of proper safe lifting techniques even years after your knee is replaced.

Today’s artificial knees are designed to be extremely durable and can withstand heavy lifting needs. However, these heavy lifting needs to be performed safely and on a limited basis.  If you have any questions make sure you review these lift questions with your PT and or your surgeon.    

Final Thoughts Regarding How Much Weight Can You Lift After Total Knee Replacement

  • Most surgeons place a 10 pound lifting limit for 4-6 weeks after surgery
  • Simple household chores including vacuuming and laundry should be avoided
  • Once you are clear to lift, avoid twisting and turning on your new knee

To sum things up, its best to be extremely cautious when returning to lifting objects of any size or weight.  Your surgeon placed a lifting restriction on you for a reason and that reason is to avoid potential major issues.

Listen to your physical therapist and learn the proper lifting techniques that you feel safe performing.  Just because your coworker feels ok lifting their granddaughter 2 weeks after surgery doesn’t mean you will too.  Be smart and be safe with your knee replacement.

About Jeffrey Roth MPT

Owner and operator of Roth Therapy Services in Pittsburgh, PA focusing on in home rehabilitation physical therapy services.


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