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What Should You Do After a Knee Replacement?  

By Meaghan O’Donnell PT, DPT - September 14, 2020

What Should You Do After a Knee Replacement?  

Physical therapy, movement, and walking are critical in the first 48 hours after surgery. Research has shown that early mobilization improves long term outcomes with a knee replacement.

A Total Knee Arthoplasty can be a painful surgery however with movement the pain will decrease. Many patients avoid movement right after surgery because their knees hurt, however moving the knee is what helps to decrease inflammation and increase mobility of the new joint. Arteries have pumps that bring blood from the heart to the rest of the body however veins do not have pumps to return the blood to the heart. Muscle contraction is what pumps the blood in the veins back to the heart and why movement after surgery is so critical. Inflammation is common and normal after surgery, it is also what causes pain. The knee is a small area and the added pressure in the knee from inflammation causes increased pain.

So what can I do?

Try performing heel slides, ankle pumps, and elevating your leg to decrease inflammation. Don’t be alarmed if you are in a lot of pain after surgery, this is normal.

Heel slides: laying on your back keep your foot on the ground and bend your knee as much as you can and then straighten your leg out. You may not be able to bend your knee much initially but this will improve with repetitions. You can perform this exercise in bed which makes it easy to perform after surgery. 

Ankle pumps: laying down with your legs straight just pump your ankles up towards your nose and back down. You may feel a stretch in your calf or back of the knee. Perform this exercise as many times as possible throughout the day. 

Movement is key! Good luck and see you after surgery!