Gardening After a Total Shoulder or Knee Replacement

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Total shoulder or knee replacements are a common solution to arthritis or degeneration of the joint after injury. It’s common for people who get these procedures to struggle with staying active, though. After all, they’ve spent what’s likely been years with debilitating joint pain. Research has shown, however, that exercise can help with the recovery process. With the weather looking nicer every day, functional activities — such as gardening — are a great opportunity to get some vitamin D while you stretch out those nice new joints.

Know Your Range of Motion

If you’re in the early stages of recovery, your range of motion may be limited still before you complete enough physical therapy. If you’re unable to bend a knee more than 90 degrees, trying sitting in a chair while trimming back plants or watering trees. Even if you’re allowed to go past a right angle bend at the legs, you might not be cleared to kneel down on the new knee. This may not be a bad thing, though! Think of it as an opportunity to engage your muscles to strengthen the ones around the knee that support the joint.

Keeping Balanced

Gardening often requires walking over uneven surfaces, such as rocky soil or mud. Make sure your knee is up to the task of carrying you safely over exposed roots before you hit the garden. For shoulders, remember that the new joint isn’t necessarily made to take a beating, so landing on the surgery side could cause problems now and in the future. Don’t be afraid to use assistive devices to make sure you’re staying steady on your feet.

Save the Repeats for Later

For shoulders especially it’s important to stay away from repetitive motions. While some gardening tasks can require much of this, there are a few that would be perfect for those recovering from a shoulder replacement surgery. Trimming existing shrubs and bushes allows you to use a fuller range of motion. Pulling weeds is something easily done one-handed. Smaller tasks that can be done in a variety of ways are perfect, generally.

If you’re recovering from a total shoulder or knee replacement and looking for ways to stay active, gardening can be the perfect solution.


Peer Health can connect you with a personalized peer community to share provider recommendations, treatment options, and define your best life. Sign up for our beta and newsletter today.

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