Home exercise program: Knee exercises after knee replacement surgery
Once you return home, exercise is still important to prevent complications
and to build strength, as well as improve the motion of your knee. This will
help you to increase your activity level to what it was before surgery.
Your leg muscles probably feel weak because you didn't use them much with your
knee problems. Surgery corrected the knee problem.
A regular exercise program
A regular exercise program will strengthen your muscles as well as help your
knee bend and straighten. Your success with rehabilitation largely depends on
your commitment to follow the exercise program developed by your therapists.
Ideally, you should exercise two to three times a day, every day, after surgery.
Follow specific directions given to you by your doctor, therapist or nurse.
Complete each exercise 10 times. If you are comfortable with the exercise,
increase the repetitions by five times each week, until you reach 20 repetitions:
- week one: 10 repetitions
- week two: 15 repetitions
- week three: 20 repetitions.
For the most comfort, do your exercises lying down. Your bed is an excellent
place to do your exercises.
Ankle pumps and circles
Bend both your ankles up, pulling your toes toward you, then bend both
your ankles down, pointing your toes away from you. In addition, rotate
your foot clockwise and counterclockwise, keeping your toes pointed toward
Thigh squeezes (quadriceps sets)
Tighten the muscles in front of your thigh by pushing the back of your
knee down into the bed. Hold for 5 seconds and relax.
Heel slides (hip and knee flexion)
Bend your hip and knee by sliding your heel up toward your buttocks while
keeping your heel on the bed. Slide your heel back down to the starting
position. Keep your kneecap pointed up toward the ceiling during the exercise.
You may want to use a cookie sheet under your heel to help it slide easier.
Leg slides (abduction/adduction)
Slide your involved leg out to the side, keeping your kneecap pointed
up toward the ceiling. Slide your leg back to the starting position. You
may want to use a cookie sheet under your heel to help it slide easier.
Lying kicks (short arc quadriceps)
Lie on your back with a 3-pound coffee can or rolled blanket under your
involved knee. Straighten your involved knee. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly
lower your leg down and relax. The back of your knee should stay in contact
with the can/blanket throughout the exercise.
Straight leg raises
Bend your uninvolved leg with foot flat on the bed. Raise your involved
leg up (about 12 inches), keeping your knee straight. Hold for 5 seconds.
Slowly lower your leg down and relax.
Knee bending (sitting knee flexion)
Sit on a chair. Bend your knee back as much as you can. Hold for 10 seconds.
Return to the starting position and relax. Repeat 10 times. You can also
sit in a rocking chair and rock gently with your feet resting on the floor
so that your knees bend and straighten as you rock.
Prolonged knee stretch
Sit on a chair. Bend your knee back as much as you can. Scoot your body
forward on the chair to increase the stretch. Hold for 15 seconds.
Sitting kicks (long arc quads)
Sit in a sturdy chair. Straighten your knee as much as possible. Hold
for 5 seconds. Slowly lower your leg down and relax.
Knee straightening stretch
Work on straightening your involved knee for 10 minutes. Sit in a sturdy
chair with your heel up on another chair, or a footstool, in front of
you. You should feel a stretch on the back of your knee. You can do thigh
squeezes while you sit in this position to increase the stretch.
Sit on a bed so that your feet will not touch the floor. Allow your knees
to bend. Swing your involved leg back and forth so that you feel a gently
rebounding sensation. Do this for 2 to 3 minutes.
Optional knee exercises
Buttocks squeezes (gluteal sets)
Tighten your buttocks muscles by squeezing the muscles together. Hold
for 5 seconds.
Bend your involved knee a little and tighten the muscle along the back
of your thigh by digging your heel into the bed. Hold for 5 seconds.
Besides your exercise program, you must leave time for walking. Walking helps
build your strength and endurance.
Walk around your home three to five times each day. Trips to the bathroom or
kitchen are not enough. Progress to walking outside and in the community.
Advanced knee exercises
Worksheet: Home exercise program schedule (requires Adobe Reader)
Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists
Total knee replacement
Source: Allina Patient Education, Total Knee Replacement, third edition, ortho-ahc-90140
First published: 10/01/2000
Last updated: 12/01/2006
Reviewed by: Allina Patient Education experts