A regular exercise regime guided and overseen by a qualified physiotherapist is an important part of recovery post-surgery. Regular exercises after knee replacement surgery will help the patient regain their mobility and grow strong sooner. Some common exercises prescribed by doctors are listed below. However, these are indicative and it is important to consult a qualified physician to understand which exercises are best for the patient at which intervals.
Week 1-Week 3
The first week post-surgery is likely to be spent in the hospital. However, the patient can slowly ease themselves into carrying out some basic movements. As a start he/she can work on getting in and out of the bed themselves and going on short walks with a walker or crutches on an even surface. One can also start climbing up and down 1 or 2 stairs at a time. The patient may also practice bending and straightening their knee slowly in bits.
By the second or third week, the patient is likely to be discharged from the hospital. Once home, it is often recommended that the patient take short walks at a slow steady pace around 4-5 times a day, increasing the distance a little each time. Sitting for long periods of time is usually not recommended as it increases swelling in the legs. Bending the knee at 90 degrees and taking short walks are known to increase strength, reduce stiffness and increase the patient’s overall health and well-being.
Week 4- Week 6
By the time the patient is able to walk short distances unassisted, the physiotherapist may recommend muscle resistance exercises. It is important to take it easy while conducting them and follow the instructions of the physiotherapist carefully. The patient should undertake gentle movements and avoid over stretching or straining themselves.
Outlined below are some exercises which the patient may be asked to do or which may help. However, these must be carried out ONLY with the consent of and under the supervision of licensed medical practitioners.
The patient may sit or recline while bending their knees at a 10 degree angle. The heel should be pulled into the floor with thigh muscles tightened. The patient must then hold and relax.
Using a flat surface, the patient must lie on his or her back with a towel under the ankle. The knee will then have to straighten as it rises. This position must be held for about 5 seconds and then relaxed.
Straight Leg Rises:
The patient may also try straightening and lifting the leg about 6 inches while laying on a flat surface on his/her back. This position must be held for about 5 seconds and then repeated.
Week 6-Week 12
If the patient has made progress, then more difficult and strenuous activities may be added to his/her exercise regime during week six to week twelve post-surgery.
Step ups are a common post-surgery exercise. This involves the patient stepping up on a low stool with one foot first then followed by his/her other foot. Consequently, he/she will step down from the stool with one foot first followed by another foot. The height of the stool may be increased over time.
Knee Bend, Partial, and Single Leg:
The patient can try holding on to a chair, bracing themselves with their toe, and lowering and raising themselves with their uninvolved leg. This exercise can be tried in moderation under the supervision of a trained specialist.
The exercise bike is an important exercise for post-surgery knee replacement patients. The resistance may be set to light mode and then progressed gradually to the heavy mode with time and practice. One can also slowly increase the duration of time spent during this exercise as per ability.
The patient will be able to increase his/her exercise regime over time. It is important to work with a qualified and committed physiotherapist to ensure that an optimal exercise plan is made.
Note: Please consult your surgeon/doctor before finalizing your exercise plan.