How to Prepare for & Recover from Knee Replacement Surgery with Exercise
There are many factors involved in preparing for and recovering from knee replacement surgery and one of the most important elements is exercise. Having helped hundreds of joint replacement candidates with their pre and post rehabilitation exercises I have seen what works best and what gives people the greatest results for pain free function. Although arthritis and the degeneration of your joint is progressive, the great news is you can take action with exercise that will help your knee joint and body feel better overall.
What exercises should you focus on pre-op & immediate post-op knee replacement surgery?
There are three changes your knee joint will experience both pre & post knee arthroplasty:
- A decrease in range of motion potentially both in flexion and extension
- An increase in pain due to joint deterioration, inflammation, & muscle tension
- A decrease in strength and stability in the surrounding muscles
Therefore the exercises you need to do are built around the above changes that impact your function, mobility, and post-surgery recovery.
The most important rule of thumb with exercises you choose is to minimize pain and inflammation which for most people means selecting non weight bearing options. An example of this would be to choose stationary biking to maintain your cardiovascular fitness since it is low impact and low load.
Which exercises will help you maintain and prevent loss of knee flexion and extension?
Knee flexion is the ability of your knee to bend which is required for sitting down, getting in and out of cars, reaching to the floor, putting your pants on, getting up and down off the floor and so many more daily activities. Arthritis and the degeneration it causes at the knee joint leads to inflammation which contributes to changes in your ability to have good knee flexion. There are a few exercises you can do to address this which include:
- Supine lying heel slides from straight leg to bent knee using a towel behind leg
- Supine lying legs up on body ball knee to chest pull in
- Seated on body ball knee glide forward and back
The other range of motion which may become compromised at your knee is extension. Knee extension is the ability to straighten your knee joint. Post-surgery you may hear physiotherapists or surgeons comment on -7 degrees and this is in relation to how far you can extend your knee with zero degrees being the optimal extension. The two most important
factors knee extension plays in your daily routine is the ability to walk with good gait and also to stand equal leg length which impacts staying pain free in the pelvis and back. There are great knee extension exercises you can do to maintain good flexibility:
- Prone with towel under pelvis knee extension
- Seated circle foam knee extension or light weight leg press/shuttle (see video below)
- Standing split stance band bent knee to straight leg extension
View the Circle foam knee extension here:
What strength exercises are best for knee replacement?
In addition to optimizing your knee flexibility, you will want to target strength exercises for your knee that will improve its stability. You may choose different exercises dependent on whether you are pre or post knee operation, your body weight, and current pain or inflammation level. Here are just a few of the many strength exercises that can be beneficial for people with knee replacement.
- Shuttle one and two leg press (weight room required)
- Sit to Stand with chair for support
- Bridge lift with small ball squeeze
- Clam Shell or Side Leg Raise
- Adductor or Inner thigh small ball squeeze & hold
- Step up and step down on low height riser to start (post-op only if pain free)
View the step down exercise here:
If you knew ahead of time the huge difference doing range of motion and strength exercises can have both to your pain level and daily function, you would commit to doing them weekly. You can learn exactly what you need to do and find out about a complete knee replacement exercise program by going here: http://www.kneereplacementexercises.net.
About Jody Kennett
I am a fitness and exercise expert with over 15 years experience as a certified ACE Advanced Exercise Specialist. My studies in Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University started a passion that has grown in to an area of expertise to help people with knee and hip replacements. When I realized the successful, unique joint replacement exercise program we had built in our local community was in demand for so many people, I got right to work on creating a training manual and workshop for instructors. As I found instructors were coming from as far away as Scotland for training, it was apparent that the expertise I had gained should be shared and made available to the world. Therefore, both a knee and hip replacement exercise e-book and video were created to reach people globally. You can view these resources at www.kneereplacementexercises.net and www.hipreplacementexercises.net