Top 8 arthroscopic knee surgery recovery exercises

From the repair of a torn meniscus to the treatment of kneecap problems, the reasons for getting arthroscopic knee surgery can vary. After the surgery, your doctor will recommend an arthroscopic knee surgery recovery exercise routine that increases in difficulty as your recovery progresses. As you regain your mobility, you should feel better than you did when enduring knee pain, swelling, and impaired walking. Always follow the specific instructions of your surgeon after an arthroscopic surgery.

The evidence supports exercise for arthroscopic knee surgery recovery

A study released in the Journal of Clinical Medical Research found that “people who have undergone surgery for degenerative meniscus damage, postoperative high repetitive, high dosage medical exercise therapy is an effective treatment alternative compared to no rehabilitation.” 

With this evidence, it becomes clear that exercise is needed to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery. Once you’ve made it through the immediate recovery period, these exercises may promote healing.

Physical activity decreases arthroscopic knee surgery recovery time

There are several exercises commonly recommended by physicians and physical therapists right after arthroscopic knee surgery. Studies investigating the “effectiveness of exercises after hospital discharge…consisting of [exercises focusing on] range of motion, stretching, strengthening, and endurance…have shown a small beneficial effect on pain and function,” according to the Journal of American Physical Therapy Association.

Arthroscopic knee surgery recovery exercise #1: hamstring contractions

Although this move might feel simple, it actually stretches your knee in a number of ways. This exercise is performed when lying down. Because of this, it is recommended for people of all ages and can be performed with ease.

To do this exercise, lie down with your knees bent only about 10 degrees. Do not force your knees to bend. Pull your heels down to the floor and hold for four to five seconds. You will feel your hamstring muscles behind your thighs tighten. Repeat the exercise 10 times. The reason this exercise is beneficial is that movement is minimal but the hamstring is getting worked.

Arthroscopic knee surgery recovery exercise #2: leg raises

Colette Widmer Leu of the University of British Columbia analyzed a number of clinical studies completed within the last 15 years. She found, “early muscular tension of the quadriceps muscle would be important for functional tasks, muscular pump, and prevention of loss of muscular pattern and strength.”

Leg raises are simple. Lie down on your back and bend your uninjured knee. Keep your injured knee/leg straight. Lift your leg about six inches off the ground and hold for a few seconds. Repeat 10 times. Perform this on both sides. The bending exercises your injured knee and the straightening of your leg works your hamstrings.

You’ve likely done leg raises thousands of times, so be sure to remember you are recovering from a surgery. Do not overstrain; the general recommendation is to add weights to your ankle at about one pound a week (stopping at about 5 pounds).

Arthroscopic knee surgery recovery exercise #3: standing leg raises

A natural companion to the leg raise is the standing leg raise. Doctors recommend this for patients with a strong sense of balance, so a great trick is to test your sense of balance prior to the arthroscopic knee surgery.

Applying the same technique as in the last exercise, standing leg raises are about keeping your knee straight. Support yourself against a counter or bar if necessary, especially right after your surgery. Lift your injured leg, keep your knee straight, and return. Repeat 10 times.

Arthroscopic knee surgery recovery exercise #4: toe bends

A final low-impact exercise to help with arthroscopic knee surgery recovery is the toe bend. This is another exercise that does not require you leaving your bed or getting up from the couch! While lying on your back, extend your legs flat in front of you. In the same motion, you should pull your toes toward your body and also brace your knees “firmly against the bed. Hold for ten seconds and repeat 20 times,” recommends the University Hospital Southampton.

Arthroscopic knee surgery recovery exercise #5: step-ups

During your recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery, the exercises that you perform should naturally increase in intensity. Once the swelling is down and pain is controlled, you may want to include a more difficult set of exercises in your workout routine. Exercises #5 through #8 are recommended for your intermediate and advanced stages of recovery.

As you’re ramping up your workout routine, it’s important that you don’t overextend yourself, especially when performing step-ups. This exercise is not complicated but it does test your knee strength.

Find a high step that is about ten inches or so off the ground. Step up on the platform with one leg leading and repeat ten times. Complete the same routine on the other side. As your knee gets stronger, you can increase your number of repetitions or step up on a higher platform to build your strength and stamina.

Arthroscopic knee surgery recovery exercise #6: lateral step-ups

Just as you did step-ups in the previous exercise, you are performing the same movement in this knee surgery recovery workout. Find a high step that is about ten inches off the ground, but instead of stepping up like you would on the stairs move up laterally (or sideways). Perform the movement with your right side leading up and repeat 10 times. You can also increase the height of the platform as you gain strength.

Arthroscopic knee surgery recovery exercise #7: partial squats with support

Using the back of a chair or counter, you can complete a modified squat. Hold on to the chair or counter and make sure your feet are about six or twelve inches back. Slowly bend your knees while you also keep your back straight. Hold for a few seconds. Perform this exercise slowly and do not go into a full squat. Your knees should bend past than 90 degrees.

Arthroscopic knee surgery recovery exercise #8: slow chair sits

Have you done squats before? This exercise follows the same format as a standard squat, except you are recovering from a surgery and should be careful on your injury. All you need is a chair to lower yourself into and you can get started.

Cross your arms across your chest and stand in front of a chair. Slowly lower your body into the chair without using your arms to support yourself. Repeat ten times. Then, as your knee starts to strengthen, you can make the squat more difficult by changing the height of the chair.

Decrease arthroscopic knee surgery recovery time

There are several commonly prescribed exercises that help the muscles and tendons of the knee recover after surgery. Regaining your mobility is one of the most exciting parts of the recovery process. With a set schedule and a commitment to getting better, you might surprise yourself at how fast you can recover from your arthroscopic knee surgery.

Knee surgery causes pain post-surgery but has the long-term effect of relieving a lifelong ailment. Remember to always follow the instructions of your surgeon, especially in the case of mobility and exercise.

Finding a fair cost for your arthroscopic knee surgery

After your arthroscopic knee surgery, you should be focused on your recovery, not worrying about paying your medical bills. New Choice Health offers cash pay discounts and financing options for patients who are uninsured or whose deductibles are unreasonably high. Don’t let high medical costs keep you from getting the surgery that you need. Use New Choice Health’s Orthopedic Surgery Assistance program to find a fair cost for your arthroscopic knee surgery.

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