Life With Healthy Knees
From walking up the stairs to hitting the gym, healthy knees provide a high quality of life. When knees become unhealthy or injured, many patients experience less mobility and overall less freedom. As a result, every year, approximately 1.25 million Americans undergo total joint replacement surgery. In certain cases, surgery can provide relief from joint pain while increasing function. However, the length of the recovery process hinges on a patient’s post-surgical care habits. Daily low-impact exercises focused on building back strength and mobility help patients quickly return to daily life.
1. The importance of cardio
While the days directly after surgery should be spent at rest, gentle exercise after a few weeks of recovery helps repair the body. Using the stationary bike or elliptical in the gym work both the heart and the quadriceps muscles while minimizing impact on the knees. Cardiovascular exercises keep the patient mobile and moving, lowering the risk of post-surgical complications. Strong and supportive quads create more stability for the knee, protecting the new joint.
2. Heel slides
After surgery, knees can become stiff and difficult to bend. Practicing heel slides helps ensure scar tissue doesn’t form around the new joint. Start by lying on the back with legs stretched out flat. Slowly slide a heel close to the glutes, maintaining the stretch for 1-2 seconds before sliding the heel back down. Start by trying 2 sets of 10 reps, adding sets as the joint regains motion.
3. Knee push-downs
Strengthening the glutes ensures the knee has enough support and stability to heal. Knee push-downs help build muscle while improving the knee’s extension abilities. Begin by lying on the floor with a rolled-up towel positioned beneath the ankles. Press the knees toward the floor using the quad muscles, hold for 5 seconds and repeat 20 times.
4. Seated leg extensions
After a knee replacement, recovery takes several months at a minimum. For patients returning to work quickly, seated leg extensions help maximize mobility. Start by sitting on the first half of a chair with the back straight and legs uncrossed. Straighten the surgical leg, stopping when movement becomes uncomfortable. Repeat 10 times per set, practicing 2 sets per day.
The leading cause of musculoskeletal disability in the United States, knee pain causes major disruption in the lives of many patients. To lessen pain levels and regain mobility, many patients undergo surgery to restore motion to the joint. Recovery takes time, but gentle exercise helps many regain function. With consistent, low-impact exercise after a total knee replacement, patients can expect daily life with less pain.