Replacing your worn out knee joint with an artificial implant can significantly reduce pain and really improve your general quality of life and activity.

However, this doesn’t happen overnight. Although knee replacement surgery is now much more common, it’s still a major operation and it can take time to recover fully.

Milestones – what to expect after your knee surgery and recovery time


Knee bend – you should be able to bend your knee to about 90 degrees when you leave hospital and with the right rehab programme, most people will manage to bend their knee to about 125 degrees within 3 months.

Driving – your consultant is the best person to advise when you will be able to drive again but the majority of people will be able to get behind the wheel after 6 weeks.

Returning to work and daily activities – most of these will be achievable about 6 weeks after your surgery (although this is dependent on your occupation).

Low impact sports – You should be able to get back to low impact activities such as swimming or cycling by 12 weeks post op.

Physiotherapy tips for recovery after your surgery


Pain control

Make sure you take any painkillers which have been prescribed for you regularly. Most people don’t like to feel reliant on medication, but in the first few weeks after your surgery taking your painkillers is really important so you can regain as much knee movement as possible. If you are in pain and can’t move your knee, this can lead to complications and a less successful outcome.


Your knee will look very large and swollen immediately after your operation. This is normal and to be expected. You can help to relieve the swelling (and pain) by applying an ice pack regularly.

It’s best to use something that can be moulded to your skin like a packet of frozen peas or a reusable gel pack. Wrap it in a wet cloth to prevent direct contact with your skin and leave the ice pack in place for up to 20 minutes. Check your skin occasionally during this time and if it goes numb remove the ice straightaway to prevent an ice burn.

You can reapply every 1-2 hours, allowing your skin time to return to its normal temperature in between treatments.

Walking aids

You will probably need to use a walking aid(frame, crutches or a walking stick) in the early stages. Don’t be tempted to discard it too quickly, it’s better to walk normally using a walking aid then to limp without one.


A few tips to make things easier on the stairs … take both legs to each step, leading with your good leg on the way up and your bad leg on the way down.

Early stage exercises after knee replacement


Knee bends

knee replacement exercise to improve knee bend

Lie on your back with your operated knee slightly bent. Bend your knee as far as possible, pushing into a mild stretch. You can loop a dressing gown belt round your ankle to help pull your foot a little closer. Hold for 5 seconds then relax.

Straight leg raise

Thigh strengthening exercise for knee replacement

Lying or sitting. Straighten your knee fully by tightening your thigh muscle then lift your leg 10cm off the bed. Hold for 5-10 seconds then relax. Your leg must remain straight throughout this exercise.

Thigh strengthening

Inner range quadriceps exercise

Lying or sitting with a rolled towel or cushion under your knee. Breathe out and tighten your thigh muscle to straighten your knee. Hold for 10 seconds and lower again slowly. Repeat 10 times.

Sitting knee extensionsexercise in sitting the strengthen your thigh muscles after total knee replacement

Sit on a chair and straighten your operated knee. Hold for 5-10 seconds then relax.

Standing hip extension

functional strengthening in standing- hip extension

Stand holding onto a support ( a wall or the back of a chair). Push your operated leg backwards, moving from your hip. Do not arch your lower back or lean forwards. You should feel your bottom muscles working. Hold for 5-10 seconds then relax.

While you should be back to doing the majority of your activities at about 3 months, people often find that the full recovery process continues to steadily progress over a period of 1-2 years.

Participating in a structured rehab programme will help you to recover more quickly and in the longer term continuing exercise regularly will help to stabilise and support your new knee. Clinical Pilatesis ideal.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions at all,

The Physiofit Team!