If you’re 65 years or older and have had total knee replacement surgery, you’ll need to know what the best exercises are for recuperation as well as maintenance.

For older people, as well as younger, having knee replacement surgery, there are exercises they should do for the rest of their life, to maintain optimal functioning of the knee replacement.

There are range of motion exercises, as well as strength-building exercises.

For range of motion exercises, “place a towel under ankle and this allows for a passive stretch” for knee extension,” says Edmond Cleeman, MD, a board certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder, knee and hip.

This can be done lying down. Place the towel under the foot, holding equal parts of the towel in each hand, and gently pull your straight leg towards you while lying.

It’s okay if the leg is a little bent; not everyone is flexible enough to keep their leg straight.

Another stretching exercise for the knee replacement patient is “Flexion: sit in a chair with foot supported on the floor. Patient actively bends knee,” says Dr. Cleeman.

“You are quickly trained to transfer (i.e., lying to sitting, sitting to standing), then progress to gait training (with assistive device), stair training, and eventually work up to the stationary bike.”

The knee replacement patient will also need to work on quadriceps (front thigh muscles) strength by doing straight leg raises from a standing or lying position, one leg at a time.

On a continued basis, the knee replacement patient should do low impact activities like “walking, swimming and cycling,” says Dr. Cleeman.

Strengthening the quadriceps is especially important for knee replacement patients, particularly older ones, because this muscle group controls knee extension.

Quadriceps strengthening will ease pain, says Dr. Cleeman. Knee replacement surgery takes a while to recover from, especially if you’re older.

Strengthening the quadriceps is invaluable because it will make living so much easier, i.e., exiting chairs and cars, climbing stairs, etc..

Examples of Quadriceps Strengthening Exercises

Squats. These can be done by holding a stable support, such as the knobs on either side of an open door, and simply squatting up and down, or squatting while both hands are placed on a wall.

Or, says Dr. Cleeman, “Practice rising from a chair start with several cushions, then remove one at a time.” Work up to 20 repetitions.

Leg presses. This requires gym equipment. Keep feet flat on the pushing platform and don’t let legs bend more than 90 degrees. Work up to 20 repetitions.

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Knee replacement patients, especially older ones, will benefit from a personal trainer once they are finished with all of the post-surgical rehabilitation exercises that were prescribed for them.

Sometimes the surgeon will prescribe specific exercises, and other exercises will be performed through special physical therapy. Once these programs are concluded, the patient can then upgrade by hiring a personal trainer.

If money is tight, consider this format for just a few sessions. Recreation centers provide personal training at reasonable costs.

Whatever you decide, having knee replacement surgery means a lifelong commitment to home exercises to keep the knee functioning optimally.

Dr. Cleeman is an assistant clinical professor at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY, and is actively involved in orthopedic research. He’s a founding member of TRIARQ, a community of orthopedists and physical therapists.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
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Top image: Shutterstock/sasirin pamai
Sources: triarq.com