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Can I swim after a knee replacement?

Q) I had a full knee replacement in January 2014 and started swimming again after being given the go-ahead by my surgeon.

I find breaststroke difficult – should those with knee replacements not to do it because it'll be uncomfortable bending the knee sufficiently or because the joint alignment will be affected by the sideways action?

Also, I attend an aquafit class but wonder whether jumping on the operated knee is a good idea?
Carolyn, via email (Spring 2015)

A) The general advice is that you can start swimming around six weeks after a knee replacement but wait for 12 weeks after the operation before attempting breaststroke.

Breaststroke relies heavily on flexible legs and knees to generate forward movement. The kick puts extra side-to-side stresses on your knees, but certainly doesn’t rule out this stroke after a knee replacement. Any imperfection in your technique increases the stress, so a couple of sessions with a swimming instructor might be a good idea.

Aquafit classes are a really good way to get a mix of aerobic, resistance and flexibility exercise, and the water takes some of the pressure and helps to cushion impact on your joints. The classes can also be a good way to keep motivated and enjoy the social aspects of keeping fit.

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.

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