Stiffness after knee replacement surgery – what should you do?

Knee replacement surgery is performed to replace the worn-out cartilage in the knee joint. Having a knee replacement often gives excellent outcomes, however the rehabilitation process can be physically challenging and emotionally draining at times.

Many of my patients have complained of stiffness in their knees for weeks and months after their surgery. Stiffness is extremely common, as this is caused by swelling of the soft tissue and tightness of the scar as it is healing.

Below are my top tips as to how to improve range of movement and to reduce stiffness:

  • Massage – Massaging the soft tissue around the knee joint, and the muscles above and below with Bio oil helps to move the fluid away from the area surrounding the joint.
  • Stretches – Stretching the muscles in the leg, including the quadriceps, the hamstrings and the calves helps to elongate the muscles that are often shortened in the affected leg.
  • Range of Movement Exercises- This is key to help increase the knee bend but also to maintain the extension of the knee.
  • Foam roller- Helps relieve the tightness which often has built up in the muscles before the surgery has taken place.
  • Walk- Walking naturally encourages you to bend and straighten the knee but also helps with the circulation in the leg, so that oxygen reaches the healing cells and feeds the recovery.
  • Ice on the knee – this is quite useful after exercising when the knee may become warm and more swollen.
  • Painkillers– I always suggest that if you need to take your prescribed painkillers before you exercise, then go for it. This will help you to obtain the optimum results, especially if pain is a limiting factor in your recovery.
  • Call your physio – Physiotherapists have expert knowledge in your rehabilitation programme and can steer you in the right direction.

Written by Hily Perpinyal, Chartered Physiotherapist

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