What knee exercises should I do after total knee replacement surgery?

After total knee replacement surgery, you should be walking, placing full weight on the new knee joint. Walking is a great exercise. 

You should also work on range of motion. It is important to work on bending your knee. It is also important to work to make sure that you can get your knee into a straight position. Generally, people are reluctant to work on straightening their knees, because this exercise seems to hurt the most. That is why people should work on keeping their knees straight for a minimum of ten minutes each hour. A simple way to do this is to prop your ankle on a support (a stack of pillows, for example) and to allow gravity to assist in getting your knee straight. As you do this, it is important to remember to have no pillows beneath your knee, as this would tend to block your knee from getting straight.

Doing the following knee exercises will help you recover after total knee replacement surgery. Because they strengthen the muscles that support your knee, they can also prevent knee damage. Do the selected exercises with both your legs exactly as your doctor instructs. Do the best you can without getting to the point of severe pain.

Knee extensions

  • Lie on your back with your involved leg bent to 45 degrees. Put a pillow or towel under your knee for support.
  • Straighten your leg at your knee. Hold this position for __ seconds.
  • Return to the starting position.

Knee stretch

  • Lie flat on your back with your ankle supported by a rolled-up towel.
  • Relax your leg, letting gravity straighten your leg.
  • Work up to __ minute(s).

Sitting knee stretch

  • Sit in a chair.
  • Bend your operated knee as much as possible.
  • Hold this position for __ seconds.
  • Relax and repeat.

Beginning level: Slide your heel back.
Intermediate level: Use your opposite foot to assist the stretch.
Advanced level: Plant your foot, then scoot your hips forward, bending your knee.

Sitting knee extension

  • Sit with your legs bent to 90 degrees.
  • Straighten your operated leg at your knee.
  • Return to starting position.

Knee squats

  • Stand on both feet, holding on to a counter or wall for balance if needed.
  • Bend your knees to 45 degrees. Be sure to keep good low-back posture. Don't let your knee go past the end of your toes.
  • Return to starting position.

Standing knee flex

  • Stand holding a wall or chair. Bend your operated leg toward your buttocks through the full range. (Do not bend leg at hips.)
  • Return to starting position.

Knee marching

  • Hold on to a table, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise one knee as high as you can, then lower it.
  • Repeat with the other knee.
  • Continue like you are marching in place.

Sitting knee stretch with towel

  • Sit on a flat surface.
  • Bend your operated knee with your foot flat.
  • Loop a towel around your ankle and slide your heel toward your buttocks.
  • Hold this position for __ seconds.
  • Relax and repeat.

Knee exercises after total knee replacement surgery should include use of a stationary bicycle or recumbent bike. This is extremely important in the first six to eight weeks following knee replacement surgery. It is crucial to gain range of motion that allows for full extension/straightening of the knee as well as full flexion/bending of the knee to at least 120 degrees. It is also important to strengthen the muscles around the knee.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.