How to move around after knee replacement surgery
After your surgery, your health care team will most likely ask you to slowly start moving around and resume some of your daily activities. Here are some simple ways to get started. Of course, you should always check with your doctor first.
How to use a walker
Stand up straight. The handles of your walker should reach the crease in your wrist.
When walking, put your walker about one step ahead of you and make sure the walker is stable. Grip the top of the walker with both hands for support. Walk into the walker, stepping forward with the injured leg first, being careful not to step all the way to the front bar of your walker, since this can cause you to lose your balance. These instructions apply to both stationary and rolling walkers.
To sit, back up until your legs touch the chair. Reach back to feel the seat before you sit.
To stand up, always use your arms to push yourself up and then grasp the walker’s grips. Never use the walker to pull yourself up—it’s not stable enough and you can increase your risk for a fall.
How to use a cane
Stand up straight. The top of your cane should reach the crease in your wrist. Your elbow should bend a bit when you hold your cane. Hold the cane in the hand opposite the leg with the surgical knee.
To walk, let the cane and the injured leg swing and touch the ground at the same time. Start by positioning your cane about one small stride ahead and step off on your injured leg. Finish the step with your normal leg.
When climbing stairs, use the handrail instead of your cane, if possible. Step up on your non-surgical leg first. Then, step up with the injured leg. To descend, put your cane on the lower step first, then lower your surgical leg onto the step, followed by the non-surgical leg.
It’s recommended that you use a firm bed and avoid low beds.
You may sleep on your back or on either side. For comfort, place a pillow between your knees when on your side. You can elevate your leg on a pillow if it lies lengthwise from the knee to the foot.
Don’t sleep with a pillow under your knees for the first 2-3 months after surgery, as this could delay you from being able to fully straighten your knee. It can also place you at risk for a blood clot.
Getting in and out of bed
Walk back to edge of bed, positioning yourself approximately 1/3 of the way from the head of bed. Once you feel the bed at the back of your legs, slide your surgical leg out in front.
Reach back with one hand keeping the other on your walker. Slowly sit down keeping your surgical leg out in front of you.
Slide your buttocks back and bring your legs into the bed. Use a leg lift if needed.
Reverse the technique for getting out of bed. Utilize your elbows to assist with supporting your body.
Getting in and out of a chair or on and off the toilet
- Chairs should be firm, preferably with arm rests
- Pillows may be used to bring up the height of the chair
- Chair leg/couch leg rises can be purchased at many hardware and houseware stores
- Toilets should be raised using a toilet riser or commode over the toilet
Back up to the toilet or chair until you can feel the surface on the back of your legs. Slide your surgical leg forward. Keep your surgical leg out in front of you while you sit. Reach back to the armrests of the chair and lower yourself slowly.
Scoot forward to edge of chair. Slide your surgical leg forward and keep it out in front while you stand. Push up from the armrests.
Getting in and out of a tub
Many people can stand while getting in and out of a tub safely using a few simple adaptive techniques. However, if standing doesn’t work, a seated transfer is another option for you to try.
Transfer tub benches are the safest option for a seated transfer, especially if you live alone. Two of the benches’ legs sit inside the tub, and two outside, for added stability. If you have a standard tub chair (sits entirely inside the tub), sometimes it will work for a seated transfer. Either way, it’s a good idea to have someone who can be there to assist with the steadiness of the tub chair.
First, lengthen the legs of the tub chair to raise the height of the seat. Stand with the back of your knees or thighs (depending on your height) against the bench. With one hand on back of bench, slowly lower yourself to sitting with surgical leg out in front of you. Scoot backward on bench. Turn your body while assisting the surgical leg into tub.
Getting in and out of a car
Push the front passenger seat all the way back and have it reclined to about 45° to allow increased ease with entering. If you have cloth seats, place a plastic bag on the seat as this will allow you to slide into the car easier.
Roll down the window so your caregiver can stabilize the door and you can use it as a support. Walk back with your walker until you feel the car surface on the back of your legs. Slide your affected leg forward. Lower yourself slowly to the seat, pulling yourself back into a semi‐reclined position. Lift your feet in one at a time. A leg lift may be helpful if your leg feels weak.
Since bending will be painful in the first few weeks after surgery, dressing can pose some logistical difficulties you may not have anticipated. Here are some helpful tips for putting on your pants or underwear: With your equipment of choice (dressing stick or reacher) hook the front of the waistband of the affected side, lower it to floor and place your foot into the leg of garment. Bring the garment to a position that your hand can reach and pull the garment up to your thighs. To pull up your garments, push up from the chair or bed you are seated on until you are standing and balanced. Complete pulling up the garment with one or both hands.
To put on socks, use a sock aid: Place your sock on the sock aid so the bottom of your sock is on the bottom of the sock aid. Do not pull your sock past the two knots on the top side of the sock aid. Make sure the toe of the sock is tight up against the end of the sock aid.
Drop the sock aid to the floor, hanging onto the rope. Slide your foot into the sock and pull back with both arms. You can put foot powder in the sock aid to allow your foot to slide more easily.
To take your socks off, use your dressing stick or reacher and push them off, starting from the back of sock. Be sure to center your dressing stick or reacher on the back of the heel when pushing the sock off.
To put on your shoes, use a footstool to prop up your foot. Wear slip-on shoes or replace your shoelaces with elastic or coiled laces to avoid having to tie your shoes. A long-handled shoehorn will help you put your shoes on without bending.
Bending and reaching
Generally speaking, you should avoid bending or reaching to high or low places until your doctor tells you it is safe to do so. However, sometimes there are things you will need to get.
First, stand as close as possible to a stationary, reliable support—like a countertop. Then, hold onto the support firmly with one hand. Reach for the object with your free hand. If it’s too high or too low, use a grip-and-reach tool.
Walking up and down stairs
Use a handrail when possible, or a crutch or a cane, to walk up and down the stairs, not a walker. Go up or down stairs one step at a time.
When ascending a set of stairs, lead with your non-surgical leg, lift your body up and then bring your surgical leg up to the same stair. When descending, lead with your surgical leg, maintaining your weight on your non-surgical leg. Place your crutch or cane firmly in the middle of the step you are moving to and transfer your weight to it. Then bring your non-surgical leg down to the step where your surgical leg is resting.
Ways to prevent blood clots
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
The performance of knee replacements depends on age, weight, activity level and other factors. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. People with conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have this surgery. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can tell if knee replacement is right for you.