Almost half of Americans will develop knee arthritis at some point in their lives. Stiffness, pain, and limited mobility are usually the result of arthritis. Knee replacement surgery could relieve pain and restore function when your knee is heavily damaged by injury or arthritis. Here at Precision Sports Physical Therapy, we often get asked, “What is the best way to rehab a total knee replacement?

The average recovery time from this type of surgery is about six months, but it could take roughly a year to fully return to more physically demanding activities. Even though the recovery process can be long, there are steps you could take to heal well and enhance your recovery speed.

What Does Knee Replacement Surgery Involve?

When conservative options aren’t enough, your provider might recommend knee replacement surgery. Also known as arthroplasty, this procedure involves replacing the build of the damaged knee joint with plastic and metal parts to restore the normal function of the knee and then relieve chronic pain.

Many patients ask us, "What is the best way to rehab a total knee replacement?"

Knee replacement is an incredibly common and usually successful procedure. Over 90% of people who have their knee replaced experience significant improvement in pain and their ability to move around. For most people, knee replacement brings back a good quality of life, giving back independence and letting you engage in activities you used to enjoy. However, recovery is often a long road.

Effective Pain Management

People used to think that severe pain following knee replacement surgery was something you needed to push through. Properly managing pain helps reduce discomfort and speed your recovery. Because pain is subjective, it’s crucial to accurately describe and pinpoint the location and intensity of the pain. Your care team needs to know whether the pain is constant or intermittent and whether it’s sharp, tingling, or burning, among other things.

Though it’s reasonable to expect some slight discomfort after knee replacement surgery, a good pain management program can significantly reduce your pain level and help boost the speed of your recovery.

Walking as Soon as Possible

Recovery from joint replacement surgery isn’t always easy, but getting back on your feet as soon as the doctor allows you can help you recover quickly. Walking helps ward off surgical complications like blood clots. Moreover, it also improves blood circulation, and keeps your joints flexible. You don’t have to wait until you return home after surgery. Most patients can start walking even while still in the hospital.

Walking helps deliver essential nutrients to your knee to help you heal and recover. You could expect to use a walker for the first couple of weeks. Some patients can walk on their own roughly four to eight weeks after knee replacement.

Physical Therapy

It is a crucial part of rehabilitation from knee replacement surgery and may just be the best way to rehab a total knee replacement. Your physical therapist will give you exercises that might help your knee heal. Even if you’re feeling well and confident, continuing physical therapy is vital as it can help speed your recovery. Physical therapy will help strengthen your leg, help you walk, and restore the movement of your knee joint.


This timeline shows how long a patient can recover from a total knee replacement surgery.

In addition to the healing movements you perform during physical therapy, it’s important to exercise. It is different from the movements you learn in physical therapy. Engaging in safe physical activity helps your muscles get stronger and helps you heal quickly.

Remember, although exercise is important, it shouldn’t cause pain. It’s normal to want to heal as quickly as possible. However, pushing yourself too hard can cause a setback and may not be the best way to rehab a total knee replacement. Your team can tell you what exercises are safe for you to perform, which could include extra walks or riding on an elliptical machine.


Many patients are eager to recover, and it’s normal to feel this way. Did you know that rest is just as important to your recovery? Balancing movement with getting enough rest is important to heal from knee replacement surgery. You may have mild-to-moderate swelling on the affected knee for the first few months. Getting the right amount of rest and keeping your leg in an elevated position, as well as applying ice, could help boost healing time.

What Exercises Are Not Good After Knee Replacement?

Exercising benefits your health and helps your recovery after surgery. Some exercises, however, could do you more harm than good. Our patients also ask us, “What exercises are not good after knee replacement?” We advise checking with your doctor first before adding exercise to your routine.

Nevertheless, it’s best to avoid these exercises after your knee replacement as they may not be the best way to rehab a total knee replacement:

Running and Jogging

These exercises stress your knees and could cause pain. If running is your passion, discuss it with your doctor and physical therapists. You can set an objective, but start by walking.

Weight Training

Heavy lifting, especially while squatting and similar exercises, puts some pressure on your joints. Your physical therapist could have safer suggestions for your new knee.

High-impact Sports or Aerobics

Sports like basketball or football combine the danger of running with the high risk of hitting other players and then damaging your knee. If playing sports is very important to you, a doctor may recommend some contactless options.


Hiking may be low impact, but trails with uneven ground, as well as rocks or erupting roots, can cause bad falls. Stick to even trails or paths if possible.

Rollerblading and Skateboarding

These activities put you at risk of twisted knees and falling on concrete, which would lengthen your recovery process.

How Do You Loosen Tight Muscles After Knee Replacement: Exercises to Help You Recover

Short Arc Quad Contractions

Start this exercise by sitting on a firm, flat surface with your hands behind you for support. Put a rolled towel on your knee to bend it for about six inches. Raise your foot until your knee is straightened.

Your PT can help you with rehabilitation exercises after the surgery.

Long Arc Quad Contractions

With your leg dangling off the edge of the mat or chair, place a towel roll under the knee and completely straighten the knee. Hold for a count of five, and relax for a count of five. Don’t add weights to this activity.

Glute Sets

Pinch your buttocks together real tight. Hold for a count of 5. Relax for another count of five.

Hip and Knee Flexion

Lie on your back with your legs relaxed and straight. Keep your kneecaps pointed toward the ceiling during the exercise. Slide one foot towards your buttocks, bending your hip and knee. Slowly go back to the starting position.

Hamstring Isometric Contractions

Slightly bend the knee. Tighten the muscles on the back of your thigh while digging down and back with the heel (It is as if you are trying to bend further, but don’t move). Hold it for a count of five, and relax for another count of five.

Straight Leg Raises

Tighten the thigh muscles at the top, trying to straighten the leg as much as possible. Keep your toes pointed up. Hold to a count of five, then relax to a count of five.

Prone Hamstring Curls

Lay on your stomach while your arms are folded right under your head, or stand up straight near something that could be used for support. Bend your knee, slowly getting your heel up towards your buttocks. Slowly return to the starting position and then relax.

Standing Heel Raise

Stand while on your toes, lifting your heels as high as possible. Slowly return to the starting position (with your heels on the floor).

Road to Recovery: How Long Does It Usually Take to Walk Normally Again After Knee Replacement?

Your physical therapist can guide you on the exercises to help you walk after the surgery.

For the first 1-3 weeks, you might need to use a walker, then progress on to crutches. Once your stability increases, you may use a cane. Generally speaking, you can probably walk independently in about 4 to 8 weeks.

Now, you must remember that regaining the ability to walk is mostly based on months of physical rehabilitation after the knee surgery.

Rehab is essential for strengthening the knee muscles and joints and helping you regain movement. These support mechanisms allow you to walk and perform normal daily activities while in less pain or no pain at all. The better you do during your rehab exercises, the quicker you regain your strength and movement in your knee.

What is the Best Way to Rehab a Total Knee Replacement: When Can I Get Back to My Usual Activities?

24 Hours

Right before the operation, you’ll be given an anesthetic that sends you to sleep. It is usually done by injecting it into the spine, and its pain-relieving effects will last about 24 hours. When you regain consciousness, your doctor will see you.

Three Days

Day 3 (or sometimes four) is when many people can leave the hospital. To be sent home, we need to check four key boxes: your wound is dry, your knee can bend up to 90 degrees, you can walk with crutches, and you are able to get yourself up and down stairs (again, with crutches). Here and at the Pre-Assessments, you’ll be getting some help and tips from the physiotherapy team. They will also give some exercises to do at home over the following weeks.

Two Weeks

When leaving the hospital, you’ll be given a two-week supply of pain relievers to take home. It is generally a simple analgesic like Cocodamol, taken every six hours or so. When two weeks pass, however, most people would have already stopped taking them. At this point, you will return to the hospital to meet the physiotherapy team once again. They will want to know your progress. They’ll check if you can bend and straighten your knee. They will also give you more exercises you can work on.

Six Weeks

At the six-week mark, we expect life to return to normality. You won’t be entirely in pain-free condition. The knee will still feel sore. But by this point, you should be feeling more familiar with the new joint, and you should be going out for short walks – ideally without crutches.

Six Months +

For many knee patients, six months is the first milestone for a full recovery. This is where you should feel the benefits of surgery in daily life. It means different things for different people depending on fitness, age, and inclination. Still, however, there’s scope for progress.

With all that said, it’s important to follow your post-op instructions, including regular follow-ups with your surgeon. They’ll inform you what you’re ready for during your follow-up visits and coordinate recommendations with the physical therapist.

If you’re unsure an activity would be safe on your new knee, don’t hesitate to ask your physical therapist or surgeon.

How Long Will I Need Physical Therapy After the Surgery?

Physical therapy (usually called rehabilitation) is one of the key ingredients of your recovery. Physical therapists such as myself use a combination of education, exercises, and hands-on care to strengthen your body, show you how to avoid injury, and help you learn how to use your brand-new knees.

You’ll start regularly working with physical therapists during the first week after surgery. At Precision Sports Physical Therapy, we’ll work with you to create a personalized therapy plan, which usually has about three months of meeting up with your physical therapist.

The first three months of physical therapy after the knee replacement are critical to setting you up for a speedy recovery. And many of the moves you are shown will be quite useful in the long term to keep your joints feeling great.

At Precision Sports Physical Therapy, our physical therapists will develop personalized home routines to help you achieve your goals to return to regular hobbies and activities. These routines will be essential to your continued recovery after a knee replacement surgery.

Precision Sports Physical Therapy is committed to helping you increase your quality of life by being the best version of yourself.


Injury Recovery

Manual Therapy

Strength And Conditioning

Functional Movement Screening

Sports-Specific-Rehab and Training

Return to Sports Training

Precision Sports Physical Therapy is committed to helping you increase your quality of life by being the best version of yourself.


Injury Recovery

Manual Therapy

Strength And Conditioning

Functional Movement Screening

Sports-Specific-Rehab and Training

Return to Sports Training