Your leg muscles may feel weak after surgery because you did not use them much with your knee problems. Surgery corrected the knee problem. Your home exercise program will include activities to help reduce swelling and increase your knee motion and strength. This will help you move easier and get back to
doing the activities you enjoy.
Your success with rehabilitation largely depends on your
commitment to follow the home exercise program on these web pages and as developed by your therapists.
You can track how often you do your exercises on the home exercise program tracking sheet.
It is important to try to keep your swelling down after surgery. You will be able to do this by:
It is important to work on your knee motion (bending and straightening) after knee replacement surgery. This will help you walk without a limp and get up and down easier from a chair, toilet or bed.
You will be able to do this by:
It is important to work on regaining strength after knee surgery. This will help you get back to doing the things you enjoy.
You will be able to do this by doing leg strengthening exercises as instructed by your physical therapist.
Go to activities that will help with strengthening.
It is important to walk often throughout the day. This will help you get back to walking outside and in the community.
Get additional instructions on how often to walk.
Follow any additional instructions given to you by your health
care provider or therapist.
Do these activities to help reduce the amount of swelling and improve circulation after surgery.
How often: At least 3 times a day
You will have swelling in your leg and foot after surgery. Your swelling may increase after you leave the hospital. This is common and should gradually go away. It is important to try to keep your swelling down. The activities below will help you with managing swelling and pain.
Lie on your back and elevate your leg using pillows when icing and doing ankle pumps.
Do the following exercises 10 times each while you are lying down resting.
Important: When your knee is swollen, it will be hard to bend it. Once the swelling goes down, it will be easier to bend and straighten your knee. You will also have less pain.
Do these stretches to increase your knee motion.
How often: 3 times a day
Knee straightening stretch (sitting knee extension)
Sit on a sturdy chair with your lower leg on an equal height chair or solid surface in front of you. Relax your muscles to let your knee straighten. You should feel a gentle stretch on the back of your knee. You can do thigh squeezes to increase the
stretch. Do this stretch for 5 to 10 minutes.
You can also do this stretch lying on your bed with a rolled up blanket or towel under your ankle.
Knee bending stretch (sitting knee flexion)
Step 1: Sit toward the front of a sturdy chair. Bend your knee by slowly sliding your foot back-and-forth, resting briefly as needed. Try to move your foot back farther each time as you are able. You can use your hands to help. Do this
for a few minutes as a warmup. You may want to use a plastic bag under your foot to help it slide easier.
Step 2: Slowly bend your knee back until you feel a gentle stretch. Scoot your body forward on the chair to increase the stretch as you are able. Your heel may lift from the floor but do not lift your hip. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Return to the
starting position and relax. Repeat 3 times.
The stretching should be more slow and gentle than fast
and forceful. Try to keep your muscle relaxed throughout
Do these exercises to strengthen your muscles.
How often: 2 times a day
Do 10 repetitions of each exercise. If you are comfortable with the exercises, gradually increase the number of repetitions until you reach 20 repetitions.
Do your exercises lying down for the most comfort. Your bed is an excellent place to do your exercises.
Ankle pumps and circles
Pump your feet up and down by pulling your feet up toward you, then pushing your feet down away from you. Next, rotate your feet clockwise and counterclockwise.
Thigh squeezes (quadriceps sets)
Tighten the muscles on the top 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 surgical 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 and relax. Keep your kneecap pointed up toward the ceiling during the exercise. You may want to use a plastic bag under your heel to help it slide easier.
Leg slides (abduction/adduction)
Slide your surgical 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 plastic bag under your heel to help it slide easier.
Lying kicks (short arc quadriceps)
Lie on your back with a rolled-up blanket or towel (at least 6 inches in diameter) under the knee of your surgical leg.
Straighten your surgical leg. Work up to holding for 5 seconds. Slowly lower your leg down and relax. The back of your knee should stay in contact with the blanket or towel during the exercise.
Straight leg raises
Bend your non-surgical leg with your foot flat on the bed. Tighten the muscles on the top of your thigh, stiffening your knee. Raise your surgical leg up (about 12 inches), keeping your knee straight. Work up to holding for 5 seconds. Slowly lower your leg down and relax.
Sitting kicks (long arc quadriceps)
Sit on a sturdy chair or on the side of your bed. Straighten your knee. Work up to holding for 5 seconds. Slowly lower your leg down and relax.
How often: 5 times a day
Besides your exercise program, you must leave time for walking. It helps build your strength
Keep in mind that each person is different and has different pre-surgery levels of fitness.
Talk with your physical therapist about walking if you have additional medical conditions.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Knee Replacement, fifth edition, ortho-ah-90140
Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts
See Mobility and activity techniques for more specific information about mobility techniques.
Knee Replacement manual by Allina Health's Patient Education Department