Open Accessibility Menu

6 Exercises For Knee Replacement Recovery

  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Maupin & David Haynes
6 Exercises For Knee Replacement Recovery

Knee replacement surgery is a major procedure that can have a profound impact on improving quality of life for those who need it. While the surgery itself is vital, postoperative rehabilitation is just as important for successful outcomes and reducing the risk of complications. One of the critical components of rehabilitation after knee replacement surgery is proper movement and exercise.

Jeremiah Maupin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Ortho Central and David Haynes, MS, PT, SCS, OCS, ATC, Cert. MDT, weigh in on some of the things you can do to make sure your recovery goes as smooth as possible.

Why Movement is Important After Knee Replacement Surgery

After knee replacement surgery, it's common to experience stiffness, pain, and weakness in the affected joint. However, limiting movement or staying sedentary can exacerbate these symptoms and lead to complications such as blood clots, joint stiffness, and muscle atrophy.

It may feel uncomfortable at first, but these exercises will speed your recovery and help reduce your post-operative pain. “I tell our patients we have to strike while the iron is hot on their range of motion because the window can close quickly, so it’s essential to get that going before scar tissues starts to form,” said Haynes. “The most important exercise is attaining ROM (range of motion) early in the process, especially the first 6 weeks. We aggressively pursue full extension and at least 120 degrees of flexion, although I prefer a minimum of 130 degrees of knee bend.”

Engaging in light exercises and movements can:

  • Improve range of motion: Moving the knee joint through its full range of motion can help reduce stiffness and improve flexibility.
  • Strengthen muscles: Strengthening the muscles around the knee joint can improve stability, decrease pain, and prevent future injuries.
  • Promote circulation: Light movements and exercises can help improve blood flow and prevent blood clots.
  • Speed up recovery: Regular exercise and movement can speed up the recovery process.

Exercises to Do After Knee Replacement Surgery

It's essential to work closely with a physical therapist or healthcare provider to develop a safe and effective rehabilitation program. They will tailor the program to meet the patient’s needs and ensure that they progress at a safe pace. The exercises below are all great options to get your knee back to full mobility again, but you should always consult your surgeon or physical therapist. They can help make sure you are following a rehabilitation protocol that works best for your specific needs.

Now let’s look at some common knee rehabilitation exercises that might work for you:

Seated Knee Flexion Stretch Scoot

While in a seated position, slides your foot back to a bent knee position. Keep your foot planted on the ground and scoot forward until a stretch is felt at the knee.

  • Repeat 10 Times
  • Hold 10 Seconds
  • Complete 3 Sets
  • Perform 3 Times a Day

Heel Slides - Wall

While lying on your back with both legs up a wall or closed door, slowly bend the affected knee so that the heel slides downward for a gentle stretch. Then actively return to the original position. To decrease friction, a towel should be placed under the foot and placed on a door which has a smoother surface.

This exercise can also be done on the bed.

  • Repeat 10 Times
  • Hold 5 Seconds
  • Complete 3 Sets
  • Perform 3 Times a Day

Heel Slides Wall.png (258 KB)

Knee Extension Stretch - Propped

While seated, prop your foot up on another chair and allow gravity to stretch your knee towards a more straightened position.

  • Repeat 1 Time
  • Hold 5 Minutes
  • Complete 1 Set
  • Perform 3 Times a Day

 knee extension stretch propped.png (113 KB) 

Terminal Knee Extension

Start in a standing position with an elastic band attached above your knee and the other end tied with a knot and fixated behind a closed door or other anchor. The target knee should be partially bent with your toes touching the ground. Next, move your knee back towards a straightened position so that your heel touches the floor and you pull against the band.

  • Repeat 10 Times
  • Hold 10 Seconds
  • Complete 3 Sets
  • Perform 3 Times a Day

Quad Set – Towel Under Knee – Isometric Quads

Place a small towel roll under your knee, tighten your top thigh muscle to press the back of your knee downward while pressing on the towel.

  • Repeat 10 Times
  • Hold 10 Seconds
  • Complete 3 Sets
  • Perform 3 Times a Day

 Quad Set Towel Under Knee Iso Quads.png (189 KB)

Straight Leg Raise

While lying on your back, raise up your leg with a straight knee. Keep the opposite knee bent with the foot planted on the ground.

Focus on keeping the knee as straight as you can.

  • Repeat 10 Times
  • Hold 1 Second
  • Complete 2 Sets
  • Perform 1 Times a Day

 Straight Leg Raise.png (76 KB)

Movement and exercise are critical components of any postoperative rehabilitation, including after knee replacement surgery. Your healthcare providers will be able to lay out specific goals and milestones to reach.  “Our goal is to have the patient discharged from physical therapy with full range of motion, normalize their gait pattern without an assistive device, and return to all activities of daily living safely,” said Dr. Maupin.  

At Ortho Central, we help patients manage every step of the process, from the initial consultation, to postoperative rehabilitation. This ensures clear and effective communication from your medical providers every step of the way, with nothing getting lost in translation. Every component of your care is coordinated to ensure the most efficient and cohesive treatment plan.

If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Maupin, David Haynes or Ortho Central in general, you can learn more by calling 405-360-6764.