Exercises to Improve your Hip or Knee Replacement Recovery

Follow these exercises to improve your knee surgery replacement recovery. Contact Dr. Bashyal to learn more about ultra minimally invasive knee replacement.

Knee Surgery Recovery Exercises

A total hip or knee replacement is a significant operation that requires thought and preparation. In previous decades a full recovery could take up to a year to achieve but an ultra minimally invasive procedure allows many patients to resume daily activities in a matter of days or weeks. A consistent physical therapy routine will help you return to work, daily activities and an active lifestyle following your surgery. Everyone’s daily routine is unique. Whether you are eager to do simple things like resume driving, climb stairs, or higher impact activities like hiking or biking this guide will give you an idea of what to expect after your pro.cedure and exercises to aid in your hip or knee replacement recovery.

The Early Days

             Traditionally mobility was limited or difficult during the first days of hip or knee replacement recovery. With an ultra minimally invasive procedure patients can walk and climb stairs and within hours of the surgery. Your doctor and physical therapist will initially recommend exercises designed to rebuild the muscles that support your joints and help you balance. These exercises will also stimulate blood flow to the area, helping the muscles heal and gradually increasing mobility. Some of these exercises may include:

1. Ankle pumps and rotations

While keeping your leg straight, gently flex your foot up towards your shin, and then away from it. After a few repetitions, slowly move your foot in circles clockwise and counter-clockwise.  

2. Flex the glute

Easier than the first one. Just squeeze your buttock muscles! You can also practice flexing the tops of your thighs.

3. Bed-supported knee bends

 Without letting your knee tilt inward or outward, gently slide your heel back towards your buttock until your leg stops you, hold the bend for 5-10 seconds, and then slowly straighten.

Part 1: Supported Knee Bends

Breaking it in

              If you’ve been keeping up with your routine, your PT will recommend additional exercises that focus on strength-training and joint mobility. Like the previous exercises, patience is important. Trust your PT to let you know when and how far you can push your body.

1. Sitting knee bends

For this exercise, you’ll need a chair, a rag, and a wooden or smooth-surfaced floor. Sit up on the edge of your chair and place the cloth under the foot of the operative leg. Without tilting your knee, slide your foot back towards your body until it stops. When you become more comfortable with this exercise, use your other leg to coax the knee into a deeper bend.  

2. Straight leg raises

Your PT may recommend support under your buttock for this exercise but they can also be done from the floor. To start, flex your foot and activate all the muscles in your leg. While holding that flex, gently lift your leg—no hands!—about an inch or two off the ground. Hold for a moment, and then return the leg to the ground.

3. Standing Abduction exercises

Use support as needed. You’ll want to flex your foot towards your shin (as opposed to pointing your toes) and make sure that both your knee and your foot are pointing forward. Being careful not to let the leg rotate, gently lift it away from the body, hold at the stopping point, and then gently bring it back down.

Straight Leg Raises and Standing Abduction
Straight Leg Raises and Standing Abduction Exercises

4. Standing knee raises

Use support as needed. Making sure not to bend your hip past 90 degrees, slowly lift your knee up to hip level, and then return it slowly to the floor. Keep your foot flexed during this exercise as well to help your knee stay happy.

Standing Knee Raises

5. Leg Extension

You’ll use two chairs, or a chair and an ottoman, for this exercise. Place the chairs so they face each other. Sitting up straight on the edge of one chair, simply lift your operative leg from the floor and rest it on another chair. It is okay to maintain a knee bend during this exercise. 

As your recovery continues, the knee will slowly relax into a straightened position.

Going forward

Your PT will likely recommend that you perform the exercises in this blog two to three times daily. Be careful not to rush the process! A gradual return to your daily activities is best. Once you are recovered, it is better to avoid high-impact exercises like running, but hip and knee replacement patients can still enjoy many activities, and these two exercises will likely be recommended to keep you happy and healthy for years to come:

1. Walking

Because it is such a natural movement, walking is one of the best recovery exercises. The gentle, low-intensity motion promotes healthy blood flow to the joints and works all the crucial support muscles in your leg. Directly after your operation, you will need to use a walker, and then a cane for some time, but if you can move around for even 10-15 minutes a day—or as your PT recommends—you’ll be out and about in no time.  

2. Swimming

Low-stress aquatics are excellent for joint health. They are the epitome of low-impact, resistance training. The difficulty of moving through the water forces your entire body to work, and the lack of impact keeps anything from getting hurt in the process

If you are considering a minimally invasive knee replacement contact Dr. Ravi Bashyal (847) 866-7846.

Author: Ravi Bashyal, MD

Ravi K. Bashyal, MD is a Chicago native and an orthopedic surgeon specializing in ultra-minimally invasive hip and knee replacement at NorthShore University System in Chicago, IL where he is Director of Outpatient Hip and Knee Replacement Surgery.