Post-operative Knee Rehabilitation

Not being able to keep up with the family on walks; not being able to go at all; pain at night keeping you awake, and losing the ability to do all the things you love can be frustrating and disheartening. That is why many people make the decision to have a knee replacement and the outcomes can be life changing when surgery goes well and you do a good job on your rehabilitation.

There are important things you can do post-operatively that will set you up for great rehab and results.

  1. Manage your pain. The first thing is to use the pain relief you are given. There is no medal for enduring pain and in fact one of the predictors of ongoing pain after joint replacement is poor pain control early on. So take what you are offered and be comfortable. You may still have pain but it should be manageable and you can then move more and get going.
  2. Manage your swelling. The less swelling you have the easier it is to move and the less pain as swelling contains inflammatory chemicals that can irritate your local nerves. This means pacing your activities and exercises through the day, doing a little often, and getting your leg up at regular intervals. It needs to be higher than your heart so sitting is not best, the ideal is to lie down with your leg on a pile of pillows, then moving your ankle and activating your knee muscles often to pump the swelling away. Ice can also help to reduce swelling so while you have it up you can place a bag of crushed ice over a towel on your knee.
  3. Walk. Little and often, and build up gradually. I believe walking is the best exercise: it is free, you can do it anywhere and it is beneficial for your heart, circulation, strength, movement and your feeling of wellbeing. The other form of exercise that is really helpful is pedalling – you can use an exercise bike or a set of pedals. Both these give a gentle steady movement that encourages muscle work, knee flexibility and circulation boost.
  4. Hands-on treatment helps. If you are struggling to get moving, your knee feels stiff, then a few sessions of hands-on physio can really help to shift swelling, release tight muscles and get the knee moving.
  5. Do your exercises!! It is surprising that anyone expects to get better if they don’t do their exercises but this does happen. Usually this is because the exercises are boring, not specific for you and not explained well. At E3 physio we make a point of making sure your exercises are specific for you and tailored to what you want to get back to. We explain the how and why – what it will help and exactly how best to do them.