What are the best recovery exercises after knee replacement surgery?

The road to recovery after a knee replacement can seem daunting, but the pay off for the hard work is life changing, especially if you have been living with chronic pain and recurring injuries in your knee. A strong commitment to physical rehabilitation after a knee replacement surgery is absolutely imperative to having the best chance at a full recovery. After your surgery, your physiotherapist will provide you with knee replacement exercises and it is best to maintain them as per your personalised schedule.

Returning to regular exercise after a knee replacement 

Ultimately, the aim with knee replacement exercises after surgery is to help you strengthen the muscles and regain movement, hopefully restoring some normality back to your life. On average, patients are able to walk unassisted within 4 – 8 weeks of surgery. The months of rehabilitation in the lead up will help to get your life back to normal as soon as possible. It is good to remember that everyone has a different recovery period and expectations may need to be adjusted accordingly. 

As full weight bearing and unassisted walking are two of the main goals in recovery from a knee replacement, a whole host of great mobility increasing exercises will be recommended as homework to be taken on every day. These types of exercises include heel slides, knee bending and straightening, leg lifts, ankle pumps and circles, thigh squeezes and others, depending on your progress. Clinical pilates with a professionally trained instructor, hydrotherapy, swimming laps, walking, cycling and other low impact activities are all fantastic forms of knee replacement exercise. 

With any postoperative recovery period, there will be movements that could cause damage to the newly reconstructed or repaired soft tissue and bones. Some knee replacement exercises to avoid are anything that involves running, jumping, heavy lifting – high impact on the knee joint will be detrimental and should be discussed with your physician before. Sports like football, basketball, skateboarding, watersports, tennis or aerobics can exacerbate the injury and potentially cause your knee damage. Yoga can sometimes be recommended for post op patients as is it a gentle low impact exercise. But anything that is going to over stretch your knee and put you in an awkward position where it isn’t supported, should be avoided until further strength has been restored.

The benefits of knee replacement exercises after surgery

You should be starting the exercises as soon as you are able to and have the all clear from the surgeon or physiotherapist. It may feel uncomfortable at first but trusting the professionals is the best thing you can do. A strong rehabilitation plan will speed up your recovery and help decrease your postoperative pain and weakness. 

Controls swelling – Increasing circulation in your legs and feet will help to prevent blood clots and swelling in the knee joint will decrease.

Increases range of motion – A physiotherapist will be able to gauge your initial movement and set some progress goals and may even prescribe hydrotherapy or clinical pilates to assist with this.

Improves balance – We need to rely on balance for physical movement. A solid rehab program that focuses on core strength and small movements in the knee joint will help to restore your ability to balance unassisted.

Gait control – Learning to walk and bear weight on your new knee will see you go from using double crutches, to a single point stick and progressing onto fully unassisted walking.

Rebuilds lost muscle mass – Quadriceps, hamstring and glute exercises are imperative in regaining strength in your knee joint and will assist with getting back to weight bearing activities as soon as possible.

For more information on what your road to surgery and recovery could look like, please don’t hesitate to contact us, we are here to help you get the most out of your life by alleviating pain and reducing recurrent injuries.