Weeks 1 to 6
You will continue the exercises you began in the hospital and gradually increase the number and duration of the exercises. If you used a continuous passive motion machine in the hospital, your healthcare team may ask you to continue with it at home.
You will also be advised to gradually increase household activities such as cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. You will be allowed to take a shower without limitations when your incision heals.
Weeks 6 to 12
At this point, new exercises may be added to your regimen, such as:
- Toe and heel raises—alternating between rising up on toes and heels while standing
- Partial knee bends—bending your knees slowly up and down while standing
- Hip abduction—moving your straightened leg to the side while standing
- Leg balance—standing on one foot at a time
- Step-ups—raising alternating feet onto a step and straightening your leg
- Bicycle—riding a stationary bicycle
Your surgeon will tell you when you can return to activities like walking without a cane, walker, or crutches; driving a car; and returning to work.
Walking and Stairs
During recovery, you will progress from using your walker or crutches to a cane. If you have no problems, you’ll graduate to walking on your own. Eventually you will be allowed to climb stairs. In most cases, patients begin with smaller-height steps and gradually progress to standard-height steps.
Your ability to drive depends on your progress during recovery and which knee you had replaced. Right knee replacements tend to experience a longer delay than left knee replacements. Your doctor will tell you when it’s safe to get back behind the wheel.
Determining the date you return to work will, of course, depend on the type of work you do. People who do manual labor or tasks requiring squatting or climbing steep stairs may have to discuss vocational counseling with their surgeon.
After 12 Weeks
Your healthcare team may have you perform more strengthening and stretching exercises. Avoid exercises that place too much stress on the knee such as jogging, tennis, football, basketball, skiing, or weight lifting. By this time you may be ready explore some knee-friendly leisure activities or sports such as golf or swimming.
Leisure and Sports
The following are some activities you may be able to pursue (not a complete list).
- Bike riding
- Moderate hiking
- Doubles tennis
- Swimming (once your wound has completely healed)
Some activities may lead to the damage of your artificial joint over time due to wear and tear. The more vigorous the activity, the higher the risk of damaging the implant. Discuss your plans for sports and leisure pursuits with your doctor.
The following activities should be avoided:
- Team sports
- High-impact aerobics
- Singles tennis
- Moving heavy objects
Before pursuing sports or leisure activities, you should talk to your orthopaedic surgeon about whether or not they are appropriate for you following your recovery from knee replacement.