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What Are the Best Knee Replacement Exercises?

The best knee replacement exercises build muscle, strength, and flexibility, such as leg lifts.
A diagram of the knee, including ligaments.
Leg extension machines allow users to exercise the muscles around their knees.
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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2014
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The best knee replacement exercises will help a patient to regain full ability in the knees by building muscle, strength, and flexibility. Typical exercises include bends, stretches, leg lifts, and walking. The frequency, number of repetitions, and intensity of these exercises typically depends upon the recommendation of a doctor or physical therapist. Often doctors will recommend that a patient slowly commence exercising as soon as possible after an operation. Some exercises can even be done while the patient is still in recovery.

Early post-operative knee replacement exercises can include working the quadriceps, raising a straightened leg, and straightening the knee. These exercises primarily help to build the thigh muscles, which can help to support the new knee. Pumping the ankle for a few minutes each hour can also help to aid in recovery by improving strength and flexibility and reducing swelling in the lower leg.

Knee bends are also important early knee replacement exercises. They should be performed with the knee both supported and unsupported in order to give the knee the opportunity to gain full strength while avoiding too much strain in the early days after the procedure. Knee bends can be performed in a sitting position and while the patient is lying flat on a hard surface.

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Other beneficial post-operative knee replacement exercises include walking on flat surfaces, inclines, and stairs. Most patients will start this activity while still using crutches or a walker for support. A walking routine should be started slowly, with the level of difficulty and time spent exercising increased gradually as the patient heals.

Once the patient has begun to walk without assistance, more intense exercises can be incorporated into the daily routine. These can include standing knee bends, which are best performed with the support of crutches or walker. Resistance from light weights or exercise bands can also be added to the early knee bending exercises. Some patients may also find a light routine on an exercise bike beneficial.

Heel slides and pillow squeezes are other beneficial knee-strengthening exercises. Both exercises can be performed while lying in bed. To perform the heel slide, the patient starts with a straightened leg and slowly moves the heel back towards the buttocks. The pillow squeeze is started with the patient lying on one side, with a pillow between the knees. Then the knees are squeezed together and held against the pillow for a count of ten in order to exercise the muscles of the groin and the hip adductors.

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