Total knee replacement surgery (also called arthroplasty) can be life changing for someone suffering from knee trauma but it is a major operation and so recovery can take quite a while. Recovery from this type of knee surgery could also mean suffering with quite a bit of pain and some loss of function of the knee joint. However, this knee operation can be a major player in helping restore quality of life.
Prior to knee surgery, the knee has usually suffered from some degenerative changes which, in turn, may have caused the muscles that help support the knee to lose some of their strength and to not function exactly as they should. After a knee replacement operation, exercise is a critical part of the healing process but because of the pain and loss of function of the knee as well as the weakened muscles, it can be difficult to stick with an exercise regimen.
Over the past few years a lot of progress has been made in developing knee prostheses that are extremely durable and long lasting. Even so, these synthetic knee joints are not as robust as the actual knee joint and are subject to being damaged by activities like running, jumping and twisting and other “high impact” physical movements.
Your orthopedic surgeon will guide you in the exercise routine that you should commence after knee replacement surgery. He will also advise when to start exercising. Major knee exercises generally should not commence until your knee can bear your full weight, swelling and pain at the front of the knee has subsided and you have good knee motion, usually being able to bend you knee through 90 degrees. This could be as long as three months after the surgery. As soon as possible after the knee surgery, patients are expected to do simple knee straightening and bending exercises, sometimes with the aid of a special machine. The exercises will progress from light exercises initially and slowly increase in intensity as time and the healing process progresses.
The aim of the knee exercises is not only to ensure the knee can be bent and straightened but also to build up the muscles around the knee that help support it and to develop balance.
Two of the best knee rehabilitation exercises are bike riding (on an exercise bike) and swimming. These not only provide excellent therapy to assist in the healing of the knee joint but also are excellent cardiovascular exercises that also help in weight control. Maintaining a healthy weight level will speed up recovery time as less pressure is applied to the knee joint.
- BIKE RIDING – Use an exercise bike. When sitting on the seat, the foot should just rest on the pedal and the leg should be straight. This will prevent over-bending the knee which could cause damage. Start on a low resistance setting and slowly increase the resistance and the time.
- SWIMMING – This is one of the favored exercises because it is not weight bearing and can provide a total body workout. Again, start slowly and, if necessary, use a float to support the legs. Avoid leg actions like in the breast stroke which can put excessive strain on the knee joint. Slowly work up to a normal kicking action.
As the strength of the muscles around the knee and the mobility of the knee joint increases, you should experience less pain and discomfort and be able to slowly get back to your normal daily routine.
Knee rehabilitation exercises post total knee replacement surgery are one of the best ways to reduce recovery time and ensure that the new knee will give you many years of pain-free use.
Whether you are rehabilitating your knee form after surgery or after an injury, progression of exercises should be slow and pain free.
A general rehabilitation program in a patient with total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Day of surgery