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Common Recovery Exercises After Hip and Knee Replacements

If you’re preparing for joint replacement surgery, it can be scary wondering what to expect afterward. This article provides a quick look at some common recovery exercises.

Ask your doctor before you try ANY of these exercises to see if they are right for you.  Over-activity or excessive loads may cause damage to joint implants.  Zimmer Biomet does not practice medicine.  This information was prepared in conjunction with licensed healthcare professionals.

Hip and knee replacements are common. According to a study from the Mayo Clinic, as many as 7.2 million Americans were living with a hip or knee joint implants in 2010.1,2 Additionally, as many as 10 percent of adults older than 80 have had one or both of these types of orthopedic surgeries.1

If you're planning to have a hip or knee replaced soon, it's understandable to have apprehension about your upcoming surgery. You may have questions like, what will my life be like after my joint replacement? How long will my joint replacement last? What will the recovery process be like? These are common concerns, and something your doctor or physical therapist (PT) should be able to help you work through.

No matter what questions you have, it's important to see yourself as an active participant in your recovery from joint replacement surgery. Your surgeon and PT are there to guide you and support you through the process. Your doctor’s post-operative physical therapy instructions are intended to help your outcome.

The great news is that there's a lot you can do to help yourself regain strength and range of motion in your new joint. One of the most important things you can do after your joint replacement surgery is to perform your rehabilitation exercises daily as prescribed by your doctor or PT. Keep reading to get a better idea of what type of exercises you might be asked to do.

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10 Exercises You May Encounter After Hip or Knee Replacement

The following rehabilitation exercises are commonly prescribed to people recovering from both knee and hip replacements, known clinically as a total knee arthroplasty (TKA) or total hip arthroplasty (THA). These exercises are meant to be performed at various stages of your recovery and are done lying down, sitting, or standing.3,4

Before doing any of these exercises, you'll need to talk with your surgeon and PT to make sure they're safe for you! Input from your medical team is a must to make sure your new joint heals properly and that your strength and mobility progress appropriately. If you’re preparing for hip or knee replacement, the below can give you an idea of the type of exercise you might perform after surgery.

  1. Ankle pumps: move your ankles by pointing your toes up toward your head, then away from your head.3,4
  2. Quad sets: lie on your back with your legs straight. Tighten the muscles on the top of your thigh as much as you can. It may be helpful to imagine pressing the back of your knees into the bed or floor. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then relax.3,4
  3. Glute sets: lie on your back with your legs straight. Squeeze your buttocks muscles as much as you can. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then relax.3
  4. Knee extensions: lie on your back with your legs straight and a small towel rolled up beneath your ankle on the affected side (your heel should be floating off the bed or floor). Tighten the muscles on the top of your thigh and try to get your knee as straight as possible. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then relax.3,4
  5. Straight leg raises: lie on your back with your legs straight. First, engage your core by gently tightening your abs. Then tighten the muscles on the top of your thigh, then lift your affected leg about 6 to 8 inches off the bed or floor. Try to keep your knee straight and still.3,4
  6. Heel slide: lie on your back with your legs straight. First, engage your core by gently tightening your abs. Then slide your heel up toward your bottom, bending your knee as far as you can. Make sure your toes and knee point up at the ceiling (don't let them roll in or out).4
  7. Hip abduction: lie on your back with your legs straight. First, engage your core by gently tightening your abs. Then slide your leg out to the side as far as you can, like opening a door. Make sure your toes and knee point up at the ceiling (don't let them roll in or out).3
  8. Sitting knee bend: sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Lift your foot and straighten your knee as much as you can. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds at the top, then lower your foot back to the ground, placing it as close to you as you can. You can also increase the bend in your knee at the bottom by keeping your foot on the floor and scooting your hips forward as far as you can.4
  9. Standing knee raise: hold a sturdy countertop or table for support in a standing position. First, engage your core by gently tightening your abs. Then raise your knee into the air. Aim to get the knee level with your waist.3
  10. Standing hip abduction: hold a sturdy countertop or table for support in a standing position. First, engage your core by gently tightening your abs. Then lift your leg out to the side as far as you can go. Keep your knee straight, your toes pointed forward, and your upper body still.3

In addition to the above exercises, daily walking also plays an important role in joint healing.3,4 In the early stages, you may need to use an assistive device, such as a cane or a walker, to help you manage the pain and maintain your safety. Your doctor will be able to tell you how much weight you can put on your new joint.

Most likely, your surgeon or PT will recommend that you perform these exercises or alternatives (on both legs) about 10 to 15 times and at least two to three times per day. Specific recommendations for you, however, will depend on several factors, including your age, overall health, type of surgery, and stage of recovery.

Your recovery exercises are not meant to cause a large increase in your pain. If they are, this may be a sign that you need them to be modified or that you may need to change your technique. When in doubt, consult with your medical team. They are there to guide you in the right direction throughout your recovery.

Your ability to stick with your rehabilitation exercises as you recover can make a huge impact on the success of your surgery. There's nothing magic about the exercises your doctor or PT will prescribe to you after you get your knee or hip replaced. They are simple by design and meant to be done consistently. Just like brushing your teeth, doing your exercises as prescribed will help make sure you get the most benefit out of them.

There are several factors that play in to the success or failure of joint replacement; appropriate movement following surgery is important.

References
  1. Maradit Kremers H, et al. Prevalence of total hip (THA) and total knee (TKA) arthroplasty in the United States. Presentation at: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting; 2014; New Orleans, La. Presentation Number P057. www.abstractsonline.com/Plan/ViewAbstract.aspx?sKey=8aee1902-36d1-4626-9e3b-3fb48ce6bb61&cKey=cbe5d81e-5b06-4de5-9dda-7d7b4c599010&mKey=4393d428-d755-4a34-8a63-26b1b7a349a1
  2. First nationwide prevalence study of hip and knee arthroplasty shows 7.2 million Americans living with implants. Mayo Clinic Orthopedics Study. www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/orthopedic-surgery/news/first-nationwide-prevalence-study-of-hip-and-knee-arthroplasty-shows-7-2-million-americans-living-with-implants/mac-20431170
  3. Foran, J. Total hip replacement exercise guide. OrthoInfo AAOS; 2017 https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/recovery/total-hip-replacement-exercise-guide/
  4. Foran, J. Total knee replacement exercise guide. OrthoInfo AAOS; 2017 https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/recovery/total-knee-replacement-exercise-guide/

Zimmer Biomet is not a healthcare provider and does not provide advice or instruction on insurance coverage. All questions regarding your insurance coverage must be directed to your insurance company and healthcare provider.

CPT® is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association.

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