After Total Knee Replacement: How Can You Improve Mobility?

Moving On From Total Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement surgery involves replacing a damaged knee with durable prosthetics parts. Surgeons recommend total knee replacement as a last resort for patients who no longer respond to non-surgical treatment. Knee issues are rising, with more American adults developing knee osteoarthritis at least in one leg. While surgery helps, recovering as quickly as possible is one of the main goals of patients.

Getting mobile again

Thanks to minimally invasive means, knee replacement surgeries are faster. Patients who choose outpatient surgery at an ambulatory surgery center (ASC), for instance, can leave the clinic the same day. The next step is to get mobile again. Based on the type of surgery, patients can start walking after just one day. An occupational therapist will teach simple techniques like using the bathroom or getting out of bed. However, long-term recovery and mobility take time. Rest, stretching, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can help.

Rest up before you move

Moving short distances is possible immediately after surgery, mainly with an assisted device. Although moving is possible, rest is just as crucial at this stage. The goal is to find the right balance. While resting, keeping the leg elevated prevents swelling. If needed, use ice packs to reduce inflammation. Alternate between long periods of rest and movement within the first 2 weeks of surgery. Day by day, increase the walking distance to strengthen the knee.

Stretching and exercise is key

The surgeon will assign a physical therapist to help with simple yet effective exercises. The goal is to strengthen the muscles around the knee and leg so the patient does not compensate on the other knee. Exercises start as simple as standing or sitting leg extensions and leg raises. Perform these exercises 2-3 times a day for the best results.

Try seated knee gliding

Seated exercises are a great way to improve mobility. However, constant standing to exercise may place additional strain, so mix in seated exercises. One of the best exercises for mobility is a knee gliding technique. Use an exercise pad or purchase a knee glide tool to carry the leg back and forth gently. Patients can also perform this exercise while seated on the floor.

Increase the intensity

After a few weeks of rest, pain management, and exercises, mobility becomes more effortless. At this point, patients should try to move around as much as possible unassisted. Make sure to not move until exhaustion, so gauge how long this time takes. Once the incisions have healed, consider other exercises like aquatic therapy. Hydrotherapy relieves the stress on the joints while improving strength and mobility. After 2-3 months, regular activities and driving long distances is possible.

Stay healthy throughout

From the start of recovery, the body will need nutrients to assist with healing. Some foods increase inflammation which can potentially decrease the speed of healing. An anti-inflammatory diet containing nuts, seeds, fatty fish, leafy vegetables, and lean protein is ideal. Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol, or recreational drugs during this time.

Stick to the basics

The goal of a knee replacement is to reduce pain and increase mobility. However, the new prosthetic alone would not achieve this goal. Patients must work after surgery for several weeks to improve mobility and flexibility. Exercises, specific stretches, pain management, and a healthy lifestyle is the fastest way to improved mobility.


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