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Mobility techniques to practice before total knee replacement surgery

  • Restrictions to follow after surgery

    Your knee replacement surgery should decrease discomfort and pain and help you return to doing activities you have not been able to do. There may be some movement restrictions for you to follow after your surgery. Your physical therapist will help you understand any restrictions you may have and how long you will need to follow them.

    Moving safely after surgery

    After knee replacement surgery, you may need to move differently until your knee heals. Practice the following techniques before surgery so you know what to do after surgery.

    Getting in and out of bed

    • Back up until you feel the bed against the back of your legs.
    • Place your surgical leg forward.
    • Reach for the bed surface, lowering yourself slowly to the edge.
    • Scoot back on the bed in a diagonal direction until your knees feel supported.
    • As you turn your body to get into bed, you may need to use a leg lifter or someone to help lift your surgical leg.
    • When getting out of bed, come to a sitting position on the bed.
    • As you turn your body to get out of bed, you may need to use a leg lifter or someone to help move your surgical leg.
    • Lean back as you push with your hands to help move your body forward until you are sitting at the edge of the bed.
    • Place your surgical leg forward.
    • Push off the bed and stand up.
    • Do not reach for a walking device until your balance is secure.

    Getting out of a chair with armsGetting on and off a chair with arms or a toilet

    • To sit down, back up until you feel the chair against the back of your legs.
    • Place your surgical leg forward.
    • Reach back with both hands and sit down.
    • To get off the chair/toilet, slide to its edge.
    • Place your surgical leg forward.
    • Push up with both arms and your nonsurgical leg.
    • Do not reach for a walking device until your balance is secure.

    Getting on and off an armless chair

    • If the chair does not have arms, approach it from the side.
    • Place your surgical leg forward.
    • Reach back for the chair and sit down, then turn yourself to face forward in the chair.
    • To get out of the armless chair, turn yourself so you are sitting sideways in the chair.
    • Place your surgical leg forward.
    • Push up from the chair.
    • Do not reach for a walking device until your balance is secure.

    Getting in and out of the tubGetting in and out of the tub

    It's a good idea to have hand rails or grab bars to help with your balance and support. Have someone nearby the first few times you use the tub or shower to provide balance assistance if needed. Talk to your occupational therapist for other tips that will work for your bathroom.

    • If you have a tub/shower combination, use a tub chair or a tub bench.
    • Approach the chair or bench from the side then place your surgical leg forward.
    • Reach back for tub chair, tub bench or hand rail and sit down.
    • Scott back on the seat.
    • Lean back as you lift each leg into the tub. You may need help to lift your surgical leg into the tub.
    • To get out of the tub, lean back as you lift each leg out. You may need help to lift your surgical leg.
    • Place your surgical leg forward.
    • Push up from the tub chair or bench (or use hand rails to pull yourself up).
    • Do not reach for a walking device until your balance is secure.

    How to go up and down stairs

    Your physical therapist will review stair climbing with you in the hospital.

    • Up with the good. Remember to go up the step with your nonsurgical leg first, then bring your surgical leg up to the same step. 
    • Down with the bad. Also remember to go down the step with your surgical leg first, then bring your nonsurgical leg down to the same step.

    Getting in and out of car, step 1Getting in and out of a car

    A large plastic bag on the car seat may help you move more easily. Also, a firm pillow under your bottom may be needed to increase the seat height so your hips are higher than your knees.

    Anytime you are getting in or out of the car, have the driver park about four feet out from the curb edge and not on an incline. Also make sure that the surface you’ll be walking on is free of ice and snow.

    • Back up to your car seat. Place your surgical leg forward.
    • Reach back and find a stable hand hold (dashboard, back of seat).
    • Slowly lower yourself onto the seat.
    • Scoot back on the car seat. Lean back as you lift each leg into the car. You may need help to lift your surgical leg.
    • Getting in and out of car, step 2
    • When getting out of the car, slide closer to the driver's seat and lean back as you lift each leg out of the car. You may need help to lift your surgical leg.
    • Scoot to the edge of the seat and place your feet on the street (not on the curb). Place your surgical leg forward.
    • Using the same hand holds, push with your arms and your nonsurgical leg to stand.
    • Do not reach for a walking device until your balance is secure.

    Reaching, bending, carrying

    • Avoid bending and reaching in low cupboards. Use a device like a reacher when possible. Cupboards can also be arranged to eliminate bending.
    • Avoid carrying or holding anything in your hands while using a walker or crutches. Use pockets in an apron, tool apron, clothing, fanny pack or backpack. Walker baskets and bags can be purchased at home health stores.
    • Getting in and out of car, step 3
    • Turn your walker slowly with small steps to square up to the sink when washing your hands, washing dishes or doing personal hygiene. Avoid turning and twisting.
    • Avoid reaching too far when you slide objects across a countertop.
    • Try using a rolling cart to carry heavy, hot or breakable items.

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