Exercises to do at Home Before Your Knee Replacement Surgery

Orthopaedic & Spine Center
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Jamie Swale, PT, DPT

Most orthopaedic surgeries were postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis as they were considered elective. If your knee replacement surgery fell into that category and you’re sitting at home waiting for it to be rescheduled, look at the bright side. You now have more time to get yourself in better physical condition before your procedure. In Physical Therapy, this is called pre-hab, (a converse to rehabbing after surgery), where we help patients gain strength and flexibility BEFORE their surgery, so that they can recover more quickly and have a better outcome.

The goal of pre-hab before a knee replacement is to both strengthen the muscles that support and stabilize the knee joint and maintain or improve range of motion. Here, I will describe and provide videos for the three exercises that I recommend for patients before their total knee arthroplasty. They’re simple to perform, don’t require any special equipment and can be done in the safety and comfort of your own home.

  • Standing knee flex stretch at stairs: Stand at the bottom of your steps and hold the railing. Place your involved leg on the first or second step and gently lunge forward until you feel a stretch. It should feel like tension or tightness, but there should be no sharp or shooting pains. As you are able to, progress to a higher step to increase the range of motion. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times, 1-2 times per day. 
  • Seated hamstring stretch: Sit on the edge of your seat and straighten out the involved leg with toes pointing up towards the ceiling. Bend forward at the waist until you feel a stretch (tightness, pulling) behind the leg. Another option is to sit up straight and all the way back in your seat, and to prop your heel up on a second surface the same level, this can be another chair or an ottoman. Hold the stretch for 1 minute, 2 times, 1-2 times per day.
  • Straight leg raise (SLR): Laying down or reclined, straighten out your involved leg. Tighten the muscles in the front of your thigh (quadriceps) to keep the leg as straight as possible and lift your leg upwards keeping toes pointing straight up to the ceiling. Lower all the way down and relax, then repeat. Perform 10 times, 3 sets, 1-2 times daily.

 

In my experience as a Physical Therapist, the patients who take the time and put in the effort to exercise diligently before and after their knee replacement surgeries do far better than those who don’t. Having a total knee arthroplasty is major surgery and typically requires longer post-surgical rehabilitation than most other procedures. Doing these exercises daily, as depicted in the videos, will make you stronger, improve mobility, and better prepare you for recovery, with less swelling, discomfort and downtime.

Make an appointment with Dr. Swale or another physical therapist by clicking the “Request Appointment” button below or by calling (757) 596-1900.