November 1, 2020

After knee replacement: The at-home exercise program

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Follow-up exercises after joint replacement surgery are so important to recovery.

After knee replacement surgery, you’ll probably need a walker, cane or crutches to get around safely. But by sticking with your post-surgery exercise program, you’ll start walking more easily and return to an active life sooner.

Make exercise part of your daily routine. A lack of exercise can cause joint stiffness and decrease your range of motion. Continued exercise may allow you to gain more strength and range of motion than you had before surgery. Continue your virtual physical therapy program, or keep meeting with your physical therapist as directed. He or she may add riding a stationary bike or other new exercises to your program.

These are common exercises physical therapists prescribe to help recovery from knee replacement surgery:

Quadriceps sets

Lying on your back on the floor or a firm bed, tighten your thigh muscles. Try to straighten your leg. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and gradually build up your time.

Straight-leg raises

Tighten your thigh muscles and straighten your knee, like in the quadriceps set above. Lift your leg several inches off the bed or floor. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Gradually increase your time and number of repetitions.

Ankle pumps

Move your foot up and down by alternately contracting your calf and shin muscles. Do this often to help remove lower leg swelling.

Sitting knee exercises

Sit in a chair. Slowly straighten your operated leg as much as you can. Hold for 5 seconds. Start with 10 repetitions, and build up to 25 repetitions in a row. Do two sessions each day.

Slowly bend your leg under the chair, bringing it back as far as you can. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Return your leg to the starting point. Start with 10 repetitions, and build up to 25 repetitions in a row. Do two sessions each day.

Older African-American couple stand on a path with bicycles

If you are dealing with an injury, facing surgery or coping with chronic pain, Vanderbilt Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of care. Our specialists work with you from evaluation and “prehab” through physical therapy and, if needed, surgery. We’ll help you get back to doing the things you love, pain-free. To make an appointment, call 615-936-7846.

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