Following a knee replacement, you may expect your lifestyle to be a lot like it was before surgery— but without the pain. Engaging in regular exercise after surgery, with approval from Dr. Larson, is a great way to restore strength and mobility to your knee and return to everyday activities. The guide below can help you better understand your exercise and activity program, supervised by your physical therapist and Dr. Larson.
Soon after your surgery, you will begin to walk short distances in your hospital room and perform everyday activities. This early activity aids your recovery and helps your knee regain its strength and movement.
- Walking: Walking is the best way to help your knee recover. Following surgery, you may need assistance from a walker or crutches but your therapist will help you navigate what is appropriate for your knee.
- Stair Climbing: The ability to go up and down stairs requires both strength and flexibility. At first, you will need a handrail for support and will be able to go only one step at a time. Always lead up the stairs with your good knee and down the stairs with your operated knee. Remember, “up with the good” and “down with the bad.” You may want to have someone help you until you have regained most of your strength and mobility.
Stair climbing is an excellent strengthening and endurance activity. Do not try to climb steps higher than the standard height (7 inches) and always use a handrail for balance. As you become stronger and more mobile, you can begin to climb stairs foot over foot.
Once you have regained independence for short distances and a few steps, you may increase your activity. The pain of your knee problems before surgery and the pain and swelling after surgery likely weakened your knee. A full recovery will take many months. The following exercises and activities will help you recover fully.
- Standing Knee Bends: Standing erect with the aid of a walker or crutches, lift your thigh, and bend your knee as much as you can. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Then straighten your knee, touching the floor with your heel first. Repeat several times until fatigued.
- Assisted Knee Bends: Lying on your back, place a folded towel over your operated knee and drop the towel to your foot. Bend your knee and apply gentle pressure through the towel to increase the bend. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat several times until fatigued.
- Knee Exercises with Resistance: You can place light weights around your ankle and repeat any of the above exercises. These resistance exercises usually can begin 4 to 6 weeks after your surgery. Use one- to two-pound weights at first; gradually increase the weight as your strength returns.
You may experience knee pain or swelling after exercise or activity. You can relieve this by elevating your leg and applying ice wrapped in a towel.
Exercise and activity should consistently improve your strength and mobility. If you have any questions or problems, contact Dr. Larson!