Exercise is a critical part of successful recovery after knee replacement surgery. Your treatment should include regular visits to a physical therapist, which will include exercises that serve to extend your range of motion and strength in your recovering leg. Always start with light exercise, and increase the intensity as your pain level allows. After exercise, ice your knee to help decrease swelling.
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Stationary bikes are an essential tool if you are recovering from knee replacement surgery. Bikes help you increase your range of motion and strengthen your entire leg. After surgery, your knee is stiff from swelling and scar-tissue growth. Scar tissue forms as your muscles and tendons heal, but if you do not bend and rotate your knee, this scar tissue can fuse to the skin around your knee, limiting your range of motion and physical movement. A stationary bike helps get your knee moving to encourage healthy healing. In the beginning, set the seat high so your knees bend little as your legs go around the pedals. As you recover, lower the seat and increase the bend in your knee. Pedal at low speeds for at least 10 minutes.
The treadmill helps you recover strength in the muscles you use for walking and balancing. Start your recovery treadmill exercises with no incline and at slow speeds. Use the handrails to help you maintain balance. Focus on using a natural gait, or walking posture, without hunching over or staring at your feet. As you recover, increase speed, stop using the handrails or add a slight incline. Treadmill exercises should last between 10 and 20 minutes. The goal is to help re-establish your natural walking coordination and strength.
Leg Extension Machine
On a leg extension machine, you sit and place your shin behind a padded arm. Weights are attached by a pulley system to the arm so that when you extend your legs, the weights are lifted. The leg extension machine is a safe and controlled weightlifting machine that helps increase leg strength, primarily in the quadriceps. Start with low weights and high repetitions, around 20 per set. As you build your strength, add weight slowly but continue using high reps. Adding too much weight early can cause damage to your knee by stressing the joint.
Pulleys and Resistance Bands
In addition to strengthening the major quadricep muscles, you need to strengthen your hamstrings. The best exercise equipment for hamstrings in knee replacement patients is either a wall-mounted pulley system or resistance bands. Wall pulleys have adjustable heights and connections so you can set the pulley at the height of your knee. Slide the pulley handle over your leg and set it just behind your knee, facing the pulley. Set the weight and take a step back so the weight rises. Allow your knee to bend, which will lower the weight, and then straighten your leg to raise the weight using your hamstring. The same exercise is possible with a resistance band tied to a doorknob or heavy table and slid over your knee.