Exercises After Knee Surgery For Faster Recovery

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

Because of the stress that people put on their knees through walking, exercise and other activities, this is one area of the body that often undergoes surgery. Fortunately, there are now many highly advanced types of knee surgery that have made it easier to recover after having this kind of procedure. However, there are still many factors to keep in mind when having knee surgery, including pain medication, wound care and the necessary physical rehabilitation. In addition, you will need to carefully pace yourself as you recover so that you do not increase the risk of any potential complications.

What To Expect During Recovery

The actual recovery time for knee surgery may vary greatly depending on the type of procedure being used. Because it is minimally invasive, arthroscopic knee surgery has a quicker recovery time than a traditional open knee surgery. Most people take at least several weeks to recover from knee surgery, with longer recovery periods usually expected for open knee surgery.

Your ability to participate in normal daily activities like driving and showering will come back within the first few weeks as your knee slowly regains mobility and the pain subsides. In the meantime, patients will need crutches to get around since they will need to avoid bearing any weight on their knee. Before attempting to perform any activities without your crutches – such as driving or showering – be sure to consult your surgeon to see if your recovery has progressed sufficiently.

Wound Care And Pain Management

After the procedure, the surgeon will apply a bandage to the affected area. Be sure to closely follow the surgeon’s directions for changing your dressing in order to prevent infection and to help your wound heal properly. This typically includes washing the knee in between dressing changes and applying a new, dry bandage several times daily for the first few days.

Prescription medications will be given by the surgeon for recovering from your surgery. This medication is usually used for the days immediately following the surgery, with over-the-counter medications being sufficient after that. Be sure to discuss any allergies you have along with the potential side effects when you are being prescribed a pain medication for your recovery.

Importance Of Exercises After Knee Surgery

Perhaps the most important part of your knee surgery recovery will be your physical rehabilitation, which involves exercises to help your knee recover. It’s critical that you participate in some type of physical therapy following your surgery for several reasons.

  • First, it helps you to get back to your normal daily activities faster.
  • Secondly, it can help ease some of the pain and discomfort you feel after the procedure.
  • Finally, and most importantly, it will help to ensure that you regain the full range of motion in your knee.

Participating in physical therapy on a regular basis will help you rebuild the strength in your knee, which is vital for the long-term use of this joint and the prevention of future injuries.

Knee Strengthening Exercises

The following are a few exercises that you can use to help with the physical rehabilitation of your knee following surgery. Always check with your surgeon or physical therapist before trying any of these exercises on your own to prevent further injury.

  • Leg Raises: Lie on your back with your uninjured knee bent. The affected knee should be straight. Slowly lift your straight leg off the floor about 6-12 inches. Hold it there for about 5 seconds, and then slowly lower your leg back down to the floor.
  • Hamstring Contractions: Lie on your back with both knees slightly bent. Pull your heels into the floor back towards your body. As you do so, focus on tightening the hamstring muscles in the backs of your thighs. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Buttock Contractions: Lie on your back with both knees slightly bent. Tighten your buttock muscles and hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Partial Squats: Stand behind a sturdy chair and hold onto the back of the chair with both hands. Place your feet about 12 inches back from the chair. Slowly lower your body until you are in a partial squat (do not bend all the way down). Hold for 5 seconds then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Step-Ups: Place a 6-inch high stool in front of you. Step up onto the stool with your affected leg, the return back down to the floor. This exercise may also be done with the stool located next to the affected leg instead of in front of it for a lateral step-up.
  • Exercise Biking: Sit on an exercise with the seat set high so that your foot barely reaches the pedal. As you complete full revolutions with the pedals, your resistance should be set to light. Pedal for about 10 minutes.

Temporary set backs are not uncommon for those undergoing physical therapy. Often, your physical therapist or surgeon will advise you to take a break from these activities for a day or two if you experience pain or swelling after performing certain exercises. You may also want to use the R.I.C.E. method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to help if these symptoms occur.


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