So you have decided to undergo a knee replacement procedure! Most likely, there is a mix of excitement, concern, and anticipation. There are probably several, if not dozens, of questions you may have about the entire process. Patients often ask our Evolve physical therapists about the following:
- How can I ensure the best surgical results?
- How can I reduce my post-surgical pain levels besides pain medication?
- When will I start to feel normal and get back to the things I enjoy?
One simple yet effective answer to all three questions is: Prep! Prep! Prep!
Research shows that “pre-habbing” your knee, regardless of its level of arthritis, can lead to better outcomes in pain and function after knee replacement surgery. Read below to learn about the three most essential ways to prepare your knee, yourself, and your home for this joint replacement journey.
Optimize Your Knee’s Range Of Motion
Often, an arthritic knee has some mobility limitations, such as the inability to straighten or bend fully. Sometimes, arthritis itself prevents the knee from fully moving. But, other tissues, such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments, can also tighten up secondary to the arthritic process. Yes, your total knee replacement will eliminate the joint-related restrictions to your knee’s motion. However, it won’t change those other tissues’ flexibility. So stretching those tissues can help your knee get ahead of the game once the surgery is complete. Try these stretches below, and if your efforts to improve your range of motion cause your knee to hurt more, please call us so one of our physical therapists can find the best prehab program.
1. Knee Extension Stretch
Lie on the floor or a firm sofa/bed with a foam roll or big towel roll under your shin so your knee gets as straight as possible. Try to relax and let gravity gently pull your knee slowly down into a straighter position. Work up to holding this position for 10 minutes at a time without worsening pain.
2. Seated Knee Flexion Stretch
Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair. Pull your foot towards your chair, bending the knee without increasing pain. You can add over-pressure by pushing the foot further back with assistance from the opposite leg. Hold for 5-10 seconds before returning to the start position. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10 reps each day.
Maximize Your Lower Body Strength
Arthritis and subsequent pain in your knee likely has reduced your activity level. The less active you are, the weaker your abdominal, hip, knee, and ankle muscles are becoming, potentially on both sides of your body. Although knee surgery will eliminate the original source of your pain and deconditioning, it’s important to start a strengthening program as soon as possible to reverse this process. Research has shown that better physical strength and function can also optimize your post-surgical outcomes after knee replacement. Often, there are low-impact options for people with arthritis to get stronger while awaiting their joint replacement. Try these strengthening exercises to start prepping your muscles for after surgery. Call our Evolve PTs for further personalized consultation if these exercises are too easy or too hard.
1. Straight Leg Raise
Lie on the floor or a firm sofa/bed with your surgical leg lying out straight. Tighten your quadriceps (the front muscle of your thigh) and lift the entire leg straight up 12-18 inches off the supporting surface. Slowly lower the leg back down while keeping your quadriceps muscle activated. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps each day.
2. Seated Leg Kick
Sit in a sturdy chair with both knees bent. Tighten your quadriceps muscle and gently kick your foot up until your knee is straight. Slowly lower to the start position. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps a day.
Prep Your Home For The Initial Weeks After Surgery
The first 1-2 weeks after total knee replacement focus mainly on rest, controlling your pain and swelling, and starting gentle exercises like the ones shown above. You will most likely be using crutches or a walker immediately after surgery. You’ll also be moving slower than you’re used to. You will likely have reduced stamina for standing and moving around your home. To enhance your recovery, follow the below guidelines to make your home as safe and comfortable as possible:
- Create a safe living space on the ground level of your home.
- Avoiding stairs can help reduce your pain and increase your safety.
- Remove loose rugs or mats to prevent tripping or catching your walker/crutches on their edges.
- Set-up an “icing station” where you can comfortably elevate your leg above your heart and ice for 10-15 minutes several times a day.
- Prepare a safe sleeping space, preferably on the ground level of your home.
- Some patients find sleeping in a recliner chair more tolerable than lying flat in their typical bed.
- Install nightlights and ensure easy access to full room lighting for night-time bathroom breaks and medications.
- Plan ahead to reduce your workload at home and prevent unforeseen trips out of your home.
- Freeze some easy meals to reheat after your surgery.
- Stock your pantry so you don’t have to run to the store in the first few days after surgery.
- Designate a close family member or friend to run other errands for you.
- Double-check that all your prescribed medications and other regular supplements are stocked for the next two weeks after surgery.
Our Evolve physical therapists instruct many pre-surgical clients in these above exercises and discuss these home preparation ideas. But also, our Evolve physical therapists utilize hands-on techniques to reduce a client’s pre-surgical pain and to enhance their range of motion and strength.
These blog suggestions only scratch the surface of the personalized, in-depth prehab routine we can provide. Also, these pre-surgical visits allow our physical therapists to start planning to reach your post-surgical goals of returning to normal life and regaining some previously given-up hobbies and interests.
Thank you for reading 3 Ways To Prepare For Your Knee Replacement Surgery And Recovery.
We recommend an assessment for establishing a treatment plan before surgery to maximize your strength and range of motion. This approach is supported by research to shorten recovery time and a quicker return to functional independence. Visit our Pre & Post Surgeries page for more information.
Check out what injuries we commonly treat and what to expect during an appointment.