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Home / Blog / Rehab and Steps After a Knee Replacement Surgery
Author: Collin Land

It is of vital to follow your doctor’s recommendations after you’ve undergone a knee replacement surgery – or any type of joint replacement surgery. Some patients may receive different types of instructions based on their overall health. However, there are some general rehab steps frequently recommended after undergoing a knee replacement surgery.

Most patients can expect to need about three months to return to any kind of high-impact activities, but every person is different. You should work closely with your rehab specialist to determine your optimal rehab timetable.

First Days of Your Recovery

At the very beginning of your recovery, you’ll primarily just be getting rest. Some patients are encouraged to walk a short distance with assistance on day one of their recovery. They might also have their leg put in a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine that will manually move the joint.

Not every surgeon uses CPM machines, so your doctor might just encourage you to bend and straighten your knee at least a little bit during your first day of recovery.

The next day is similar. You’ll be encouraged to move more than day one, walk more steps and maybe step up a few stairs with assistance.

Many patients are discharged by day three, at which point they can ideally bathe and dress with minimal assistance. They’re generally encouraged to walk further while only being assisted by a walker or crutches.

The First Weeks

For the first several weeks you’ll likely only be walking relatively short distances, often no more than 10 minutes at time. During this period your surgeon or physical therapist may want you to start transitioning from the crutches or walker to a cane. You’ll be given a number of exercises intended to gradually increase your mobility and range of motion.

Second Month

Many patients are able to return to a life of semi-normalcy about a month after their knee replacement surgery. They certainly aren’t back to normal, but they are often able to drive, return to work and complete normal household chores.

All these activities should be approached with caution and restraint. You should still be doing your prescribed exercises, which are generally intended to improve your range of motion and rebuild strength and stability.

Week Seven Through Week Twelve  

About two months into your recovery is generally when patients can return to traditional low-impact exercises. This can include activities like swimming or riding stationary exercise bikes. Your physical therapist may be looking for roughly 115 degrees of motion (a fully bent knee is 135 degrees) at this point in your recovery.

It’s easy to get frustrated with your recovery at this point in the process, especially if you feel like you could be doing a lot more. Every person’s recovery is unique, but it’s important not to disregard the cautionary warnings of your doctors and physical rehabilitation therapists. The last thing you want to do is set back your recovery.

Month Three Onwards

By the twelfth week of your recovery, you may be able to return to more traditional high-impact activities and exercises. However, it’s vital to listen to your physical therapist. They may discourage overdoing it, running excessive distances or lifting too much.

Common Knee Replacement Rehab Exercises

One of the most important and basic things you’ll want to do to sustain your knee replacement recovery is walking. Your physical therapist may recommend up to an hour and a half of walking per day broken out into 20- or 30-minutes increments.

Walking doesn’t just help strengthen the knee, improve mobility and enhance stability; it also slows the formation of scar tissue. Scar tissue can be restrictive, reducing range of motion. The slower scar tissue develops the better.

Leg lifts are a basic exercise frequently recommended for physical therapy. These exercises can be completed in bed – all you need to do is tighten your thigh muscles then lift your legs a few inches off your bed. Hold that position for up to 10 seconds (or less) and then slowly lower your legs .

This isn’t all that different from straight leg raises, another physical therapy exercise you may be prescribed. For a straight leg raise you only raise and hold one leg at a time.

Ankle pumps, another exercise that can be done while lying down, are also easy to perform. Just let your feet dangle off the edge of your bed and move them back and forth to exercise your calves.

Get Help With Your Knee Replacement Recovery in Georgia

The chiropractic and physical rehabilitation experts at Optimum Heath Rehab offices throughout Georgia are committed to the full recovery of our patients. We’re always happy to help you find success on your rehabilitation journey. Let our team help you get back to normal as quickly as possible.

Call us at 877-704-1761 to schedule an appointment or to learn more.

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