Recovery from Knee Replacement Surgery: Easy Exercises

Knee replacement surgery is the most common form of joint replacement surgery. In 2017 over 966,000 were such procedures were performed in the United States. You want to make sure that the recovery from your knee replacement surgery goes smoothly.

What can you expect after surgery? You’ll have some swelling and redness around your knee, but the good news is that you’ll feel far less pain and be able to move around much better than before your knee replacement surgery.

You’ll want to do three things to make sure you have a successful recovery from knee replacement surgery: get adequate rest, eat even if you don’t have an appetite and do some easy exercises. But do remember that healing is a gradual process. So listen to your body and don’t overwork your still-healing muscles and tissues.

Easy Exercises in the Hospital

As soon as the day after surgery, you’ll be able to stand and walk on your replaced knee. The best way to help your knee recover from surgery is to start walking. At first, the hospital staff will help you to use a walker or crutches.

You may be fitted with a continuous passive motion exercise machine (CPM). This device will slowly and gently bend and straighten your knee to help prevent your leg from tightening up and swelling.

What can you do to promote the healing blood flow in your legs? Pedal your feet. Gently move your ankles back and forth. Do heel slides as you lie in bed. Easy Hint: you can put a plastic bag under your heel to make it easier to slide your heel.

By the time you leave the hospital, you should be getting in and out of bed by yourself, bending your knee and showing progress in gaining range of motion, walk unassisted with crutches or a walker, negotiate a limited amount of stairs, and demonstrate you know how to do recommended therapeutic home exercises.

Easy Exercises at Home
  • Straight Leg Raises: Lay on your bed and tighten your thigh muscle with your knee fully straightened. Lift your leg several inches. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Slowly lower.
  • Ankle Pumps: Lay on your bed. Move your foot up and down rhythmically by contracting your calf and shin muscles. Perform this exercise for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Sitting Supported Knee Bends: While sitting at your bedside or in a chair with your thigh supported, place your foot behind the heel of your operated knee for support. Slowly bend your knee as far as you can. Hold your knee in this position for 5 to 10 seconds.

OrthoInfo from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has a total knee replacement guide available. After the first few weeks of recovery are completed, you’ll be able to do some light walking and possibly a few turns on an exercise bicycle. Swimming is an excellent low-impact activity after a total knee replacement, but you’ll have to wait till after the sutures have been removed and the wound is healed. After about 8 weeks, you should be up to normal walking, cycling, and gentle aerobics-style exercises. Steer clear of strenuous activities like baseball, basketball, tennis, jogging and skiing until you reach the year mark and are beyond recovery.

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