Going the distance after joint replacement surgery

Making a comeback after a setback

More than 7 million people in the United States have undergone total joint replacements to get back mobility and full function of joints like the hips and knees. Most people who undergo joint replacement surgery are able to return to an active lifestyle pain-free with proper rehabilitation and conditioning, including participating in races like the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon.

Deve Vetter, who had one of her knees replaced in 2012 followed by the other in 2013, will be walking in the miniMarathon on Saturday, April 25. She will be joined by a group of women who have all undergone joint replacement surgeries. Together, they are looking forward to completing the 13.1-mile course to show just how far they’ve come after surgery.

Prior to her surgeries, Vetter had completed the miniMarathon but experienced pain while doing so. She said she was not able to complete any races in the years leading up to her surgeries because of the pain.

“I had increasing pain and decreased mobility of both knees,” Vetter said. “I’ve always been active and wanted to resume that level of activity as soon as I could.”

To train for this year’s race, Vetter has been gradually increasing her walking distances and will be completing the Louisville Triple Crown of Running, which is a series of three races — a 5k, 10k and 10-miler.

If you’ve had joint replacement and are considering completing a long-distance race or other strenuous activity, consult with your physician beforehand to ensure you are ready. Some high-impact sports, such as running or basketball, can put unneeded stress on new joints, which can cause them to wear out more quickly. If your physician has given you the go-ahead to participate in an activity like a marathon or miniMarathon, be sure to train smart. Gradually build up your distances and participate in strength-training exercises to strengthen the muscles around the new joint.

When Vetter isn’t training for a long-distance race, she maintains a regular exercise routine.

“I try to work out in the mornings before work three times a week,” she said. “That gives me a good combination of cardio, strength and core work. Now that the weather is good, I will often walk in my neighborhood.”

For the majority of people who undergo joint replacement, returning to normal activity is very possible.

“It is really great to be able to not have pain in my knees at all,” Vetter said. “I’ve always been active and wanted to resume that level of activity as soon as I could. I’ve got grandchildren to keep up with!”

If you would like to join Vetter and others in the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon or miniMarathon, consider taking part in Norton Sport Health’s training program. The program provides participants with a training guide for all levels of walkers and runners, group training events, as well as medical and training support from Norton Healthcare physicians and other staff. 


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