Can You Kneel After a Knee Replacement?

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Medical experts find that it's generally OK to kneel after a partial or full knee replacement. Though it may not be comfortable, it should not cause harm. Ultimately, getting the green light from your healthcare provider will depend on your age, the type of surgery you had, the reason it was done, and the degree of pain you experience.

This article presents research on kneeling after knee replacement, what you can expect after your surgery, and how to ensure the best long-term outcomes.

X-rays showing prosthetic knees
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Kneeling After Partial Knee Replacement

Kneeling ability after knee surgery is a top concern for people deciding whether to choose a partial or total knee replacement procedure. The choice is possible when osteoarthritis damage is limited and a key ligament, the anterior cruciate or ACL, is still intact and working.

A British study found that up to 50,000 people in the United Kingdom faced this decision each year. Discussions with 31 people, divided into four focus groups (some who had a previous knee surgery and some who didn't) found that kneeling was a common concern among them.

Few studies explore the outcomes after partial replacement, but the available research evidence suggests that physical therapy and education about kneeling lead to better outcomes—even when people know that kneeling may be more uncomfortable after their surgery.

Partial knee replacement, sometimes called unicompartmental surgery, is less invasive and people typically have fewer complications and faster recoveries. It is, however, more often associated with the need for repeat surgeries in the future.

Will Kneeling Harm the Artificial Knee?

People who have knee replacement surgeries often wonder if kneeling will harm or break their artificial joint. This isn't typically the case, but good communication with your healthcare team will help you to recover faster and feel more confident about mobility after your procedure.

Kneeling After Total Knee Replacement

Kneeling remains the greatest mobility challenge for people seeking to restore knee function after knee surgery. People say the greatest barriers to kneeling are pain and discomfort. They also have concerns about living with a knee prosthetic (artificial knee), though that may be decreased with custom total knee replacements and newer approaches.

One 2019 study of kneeling after total knee replacement showed positive results. It evaluated the ability of 255 people who had the surgery within 18 to 24 months of the study and included 288 knees because some people had both knees repaired.

People who could not kneel at the beginning of the study were given training designed to help them. They were all reassessed at the end of the training. Overall, the results concluded that of the 288 knees:

  • 196 knees could kneel without pain or discomfort, or with only mild discomfort
  • Of those who had difficulty and received training, 84% were able to kneel after completion

Another study, also completed in 2019, aimed to find out whether people who couldn't kneel after knee arthroplasty experienced discomfort due to neuropathic pain (pain caused by damage to the nervous system) or nociceptive (pain stemming from damage to body tissue).

Of the 134 people included in the study, 88% had tried to kneel during the post-surgery period but there were no major changes in kneeling ability before and after surgery. The study found their pain was nociceptive rather than neuropathic. It also revealed that kneeling pain was less likely if:

  • The initial pain score was comparatively low
  • The age at surgery was younger
  • The person was a biological male

Pain when kneeling after surgery may be due to damage to the body tissues involved rather than the nervous system.

Summary

Concerns about kneeling after knee replacement surgery are common. You may experience continued pain or discomfort and want to avoid kneeling. You also may be afraid of damaging the knee and its artificial components.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) advises that kneeling is safe and won't harm the knee. It may, however, still feel painful or uncomfortable to kneel. Your healthcare team likely will provide you with specific instructions, training, or physical therapy about how to safely kneel.

Talk to your healthcare provider about other adjustments you'll need to make, too. For example, stairs, bathtubs, and other features of your home environment may need changes. These adaptive measures may help you to use your knee more easily to perform most daily activities, including kneeling.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Smith S, Alvand A, Locock L, Ryan S, Smith J, Bayliss L, et al. Partial or total knee replacement? Identifying patients' information needs on knee replacement surgery: a qualitative study to inform a decision aid. Qual Life Res. 2020 Apr;29(4):999-1011. doi:10.1007/s11136-019-02381-9.

  2. White L, Stockwell T, Hartnell N, Hennessy M, Mullan J. Factors preventing kneeling in a group of pre-educated patients post total knee arthroplasty. J Orthop Traumatol. 2016 Dec;17(4):333-338. doi:10.1007/s10195-016-0411-1. 

  3. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Unicompartmental Knee Replacement.

  4. Wallace SJS, Berger RA. Most patients can kneel after total knee arthroplasty. J Arthroplasty. 2019;34(5):898-900. doi:10.1016/j.arth.2019.01.047

  5. Smith JRA, Mathews JA, Osborne L, et al. Why do patients not kneel after total knee replacement? Is neuropathic pain a contributing factor?Knee. 2019;26(2):427-434. doi:10.1016/j.knee.2018.12.009

Additional Reading

By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer who covers arthritis and chronic illness. She is the author of "The Everything Health Guide to Arthritis."