Social Security Disability: Life After a Knee Replacement - Returning to Work

Tuesday, 28 February 2017 09: 31
Written by Joni B. Bailey
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After knee replacement surgery many people wonder what their life will be like; they wonder if they will be able to make the transition back to work.  Here are some things to keep in mind if you are considering knee replacement surgery:

Be a good patient!  Your recovery time will depend on how closely you follow your doctor's orders.

Knee replacement surgery is a relatively common surgery.  According to A Nation in Motion, more than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States.  Because of this, doctors and medical staff have a lot of experience and know which procedures and therapies are the most effective.  For example, you might use a passive motion machine to restore movement in your knee after the surgery.  All patients will learn home exercises designed to strengthen and stabilize the affected leg. 

It is very important to follow the doctor’s orders exactly for best results after surgery.  In the event that you don’t and you end up being unable to work as a result of your surgery, you might be denied Social Security Benefits because of noncompliance with medical treatment.  For more on this topic, see my articles, Total joint replacement does not guarantee Social Security Disability benefits! And How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Keep You From Sabotaging Your Own Claim—Part 2.

Teach your doctor about your job! Your doctor will more accurately predict your return to work date if he or she understands what you do at work.

Take time to compile a full list of the things you do at work and discuss it with your doctor.  Your list should describe:

  • How much walking, standing, sitting, climbing (stairs, ramps, ladders), twisting, kneeling, crouching, and running you do on a daily basis
  • Any repetitive lifting motion – how much do you lift, how far do you carry it?
  • Whether you need operate foot pedals or other controls
  • Any heavy lifting (over 50 pounds)

Your doctor can order work hardening therapy to get you back in shape for your job or suggest whether you should consider finding a different type of work.

Most people go back to work after total knee replacements.

According to, a study of 660 knee replacement patients revealed that patients with sedentary jobs returned to work 97% of the time, but  patients with very physically demanding jobs returned to work 88% of the time.  

As the study suggests, if you have a very physically demanding job, there is a small chance you might not be able to continue working after your knee replacement.  If that happens to you, Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are there for people like you. 

If you are over 50 years old, your claim for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits will be evaluated under the Social Security Administration’s Medical-Vocational Guidelines.  These rules frequently help laborers over 50 who cannot go back to their old job after surgery.  You can learn more about these special rules in my blog post, Why Are The Rules Different for Disability Claimants Over 50?

Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney.

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