Total Knee Replacement Exercises

Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a Physical Therapist and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I hope you enjoy my video demos of stretches & exercises for common injuries and syndromes. Be safe. Have fun. And I hope you feel better soon.

A total knee replacement is one of those surgeries where you just have to push through the pain after your surgery. The first 2 weeks are very important to get as much motion as you can because once the scar tissue sets in, you'll have a hard time getting the motion back.

For the first exercise, you will sit in a chair. Start with your leg out in a comfortable position slightly in front of you. Keep your heel down on the ground, and slowly slide it back towards the chair. You can use a towel under your foot if you need to slide easier. Your heel will try to come up, but really try to keep it down. Do about 10 of these and then take a break. Then you can add a foot pump to the exercise. Again slide your heel back some, and then pump your toes up and down. This will put a little more bend in your knee, and then after about five pumps, slide it back more. Repeat this as far back as you can.

The next exercise will help you get extension in your knee, or straighten it out. Using another chair or coffee table, prop your leg up so your leg is in alignment with your hips. Your knee might not be straight yet. This is usually the hardest one to get back. With your leg propped up, push downward on your thigh just above your knee. So don’t press on your knee joint, but slightly above. Try to hold it for 5-10 seconds. If you are having a really hard time with the motion, you can put a plastic bag right above your knee and put soup or vegetable cans in the bag for constant pressure.

Now you are going to get on the ground. If you can’t get up off the ground yet, you can do these in your bed. You are going to do a heel slide again, but lying down this time. Prop up your good knee and put your surgery knee straight out. Still keeping your heel down when you slide, pull it towards your body as far as you can, and then slide back down. You can do about 10 of these.  If you want to get a better stretch, then you can use a strap, dog leash, or belt to get some extra bend in the knee. Place the strap on your shin and make sure it won’t slide off. Then use the strap to pull your knee towards you while you are doing the heel slide.

The last stretch is a quad set. This time you want to straighten out your knee again. While lying down, you are going to try to push your knee down into the ground as hard as you can. To do this, you are activating your quad muscle. If you need a target for your knee, roll up a towel and place it under your knee. While you are squeezing your quad muscle to push the knee down, you can also pull your toes up towards you to activate the calf muscle. Try to told these for 5- 10 seconds and do 10 of them.


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