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Can I run after a partial knee replacement?

Q) I've run two marathons and several half marathons, the last in 2009 when I was 72.

More recently I've I had unicompartmental (partial) knee replacements in both knees, the latest in November. While I understand that distance running within a year of the replacement is risky because the cement may not have fully set, I feel the possibility of doing the Bath half marathon would motivate me to keep on training.

Dr Heliwell mentioned in a previous answer that 40–50 miles a week of moderate recreational running following a hip replacement is unlikely to cause premature osteoarthritis. Does the advice apply as much to those with knee as those with hip replacements?
S F, Bath (Spring 2015)

A) I’m afraid that the general advice after a total knee replacement is to avoid high-impact exercise such as running and jumping. These activities will increase wear of the artificial joint surfaces.

Unicompartmental knee replacements fare a little better in this regard, because the cruciate ligaments in the knee are preserved, meaning that the joint is more stable. So running at a steady pace, such as distance running – perhaps around 10 km rather than half marathon distance – might be a realistic goal.

You would want to make sure that you're doing all you can to optimise the load through the knee, for example:

  • getting back to a normal weight if you're overweight
  • getting the position of your feet when running looked at by someone with the experience to advise on footwear, perhaps someone at your local running shop.

That said, the final decision is up to you. If you do choose to run then build up distance slowly and be vigilant for pains that don’t settle quickly after running.

You may also want to explore low-impact activities such as cycling to keep you fit. There are plenty of fantastic (and hilly) rides in your neck of the woods to help keep you motivated!

This answer was provided by Dr Tom Margham for the Spring 2015 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

Send your questions for Dr Tom Margham to

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