Most people return home needing to walk with a stick or a maybe even a walking frame.
You should be able to climb stairs but you may want to avoid them in the first week after surgery if you live alone.
How much exercise do I need?
Exercise is aimed at increasing your knee’s strength, flexibility and range of motion. The amount and type of exercise needed varies from person to person. Your exercise program will last between four and six weeks.
There are five main types of post-surgery exercise program available to get your new knee working well. Your options depend on what’s available near your home and your health insurance cover.
- Independent exercise at home using an exercise program provided by the hospital physiotherapist.
- A program designed by a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist who may see you two or three times a week for up to six weeks, either on a one-on-one basis or in a group. Hydrotherapy is another option if your surgeon approves it.
- A rehabilitation program provided as a day patient at a rehabilitation facility – consisting of one-on-one therapy or a group exercise program that includes exercise, occupational therapy and hydrotherapy (if approved by your surgeon).
- A program involving therapists who come to your home (physiotherapists, nurses and/or occupational therapists). They can help you with exercises, practice on stairs and other aspects of your care such as home safety and community access.
- An inpatient program where you stay in a rehabilitation facility and take part in a multi-disciplinary program for around 10 days. The program may include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, social work, and dietary advice. You’ll be cared for by a rehabilitation physician and specialist nurses. The program is designed to increase your independence and mobility as well as your knee’s range of motion.
Choose a program that includes measurement of how well your knee is responding. Your mobility and independence should improve in the weeks after surgery. Sometimes your mobility and abilities will be measured before and after a treatment program so it’s important to participate as fully as you can.
Before knee surgery, think about the following to help you decide what follow up is best for you and discuss the options with your treating team:
- What did you do to stay fit and healthy prior to surgery? Choosing exercises you’re familiar with and enjoy doing can be helpful. For example, if you’re a keen swimmer, hydrotherapy may be a good option (if your physiotherapist and surgeon agree).
- Can you travel to participate in therapy? You may need to arrange transport because you won’t be able to drive until your doctor approves it. This may be up to six weeks after surgery.
- Are you self-motivated? Can you return to your gym or follow a program given to you by a physiotherapist? If so, this is a good option.
- Could you cope with being away from home for two weeks or more? Then an inpatient rehab program may suit you.
It can be tough at first
In the early days post-surgery, the rehab exercises can be challenging. If you’re finding it hard going, make sure you have adequate pain relief on board before doing the exercises. If you still struggle with the exercises, talk to the surgeon or physiotherapist. Exercise is very important to your recovery.
What is a successful outcome?
Your doctor and physiotherapist will assess your ability to walk and level of pain before ending your rehab program.
All being well, your surgeon will want to review your progress six weeks post-surgery. If you have any concerns about the knee, be sure to bring them up at this appointment. If there are any problems, the surgeon may ask to see you again to see how well they’ve resolved.