Knee Exercises – After Your Joint Replacement Surgery

Fitness Workout for Women

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Former patient, Chris Simons, demonstrates the required exercises needed after your knee replacement surgery. He credits his recovery to not only the care he received from his Washington University orthopedic physician, but to the vigorous rehab schedule that he followed. For more information about joint preservation, resurfacing, and replacement at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, visit:

Ankle Pumps
• This exercise can be performed in sitting or while lying down. Knees may be bent or straightened. If you keep your knees straight, you will feel a better stretch in your calf muscle on the back of your leg.
• Bend and straighten your ankles slowly.
• Move through the full range of motion from pointing toes like a ballerina to pulling toes up toward body, feeling the stretch in the back of your calves.
• Be sure to move at the ankle joint, not moving just your toes.

Quad Sets (Knee Presses)
• Lie on your back in bed with both legs fully extended straight and supported in bed.
• Tighten the muscles on top of your leg while pushing your knee down into the bed. This will strengthen your thigh muscle.
• You will note the knee cap move upwards with this movement.
• If you put a towel under your heel, this will enhance the stretch on the back of your knee to assist with improving your range of motion.
• Hold for 5 seconds. Make sure you are continuing to breathe in and out while you are holding this position for 5 seconds. Then relax your thigh muscle.
• You may slightly bend your knee back into a comfortable position during your brief rest break.

Straight Leg Raises (Leg Lifts)
• Lie on your back, with your surgical leg straight, the other leg bent.
• Slightly roll your surgical leg outward.
• Tighten your thigh muscle, and lift your surgical leg off the bed so it’s as high as your other leg.
• Keep your knee straight and rolled out while lifting and lowering it.
• Slowly lower your leg to the bed.

Heel Slides
• Lie on your back in bed with legs extended.
• Keep your heel in contact with the bed as you slowly slide your heel up toward your buttock, while bending your knee as far as you can. Your knee should stay up midline and point toward the ceiling.
• Using a slick surface, such as a cookie sheet or a thick trash bag beneath your heel helps to decrease the friction between you and the bed, making the movement easier.

Short Arc Quads (Mini Kicks)
• Lie on your back in bed.
• Place a firm roll approximately 8-10 inches in diameter, such as a pillow, large coffee can or a unopened 2 liter bottle of soda with a towel wrapped around it, under your knee so that there is a slight bend in the knee.
• Make sure your leg is relaxed on the roll.
• Slowly lift your foot from the bed and straighten your bent knee.
• Only straighten your knee. Do not lift your entire leg off of the supporting surface.
• Hold for 5 seconds, then slowly lower the foot back down to the surface and relax.
• Like with all of the exercises, please be sure you are not holding your breath.
• Your opposite leg may be relaxed in a comfortable position of your choosing.

Knee Range of Motion-sitting position
• Sit in a chair so that your feet barely touch the floor. If you’re tall, you may need to first put 1 or 2 pillows on the seat of the chair.
• Use the knee that you had surgery on.
• Bend the knee as far as you can.
• Then straighten the knee while lifting your foot off the floor.
• Be sure to try and get your knee all the way straight.

Remember to perform 10 repetitions of each exercise two times a day.

Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University Physicians are your partners in your journey to lead you back to a healthier lifestyle with your new joint. To schedule an appointment with a Washington University orthopedic physician, visit:

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