Exercises for Recovering After Knee Surgery


Exercise is an important part of recovery from knee surgery. Although it may be uncomfortable at first, the physical therapy exercises prescribed during your recovery period are the key to stabilizing your leg and regaining strength and mobility so you can get back on your feet and keep doing the things you love to do. An exercise program designed and overseen by a licensed and experienced physical therapist during your post-knee surgery period will give you the best chance of a full recovery. 

Curious about the types of exercises a PT might prescribe? Take a look below. 

Circulation exercises

Even before you’re back up on your feet, your knee surgery recovery exercise program will begin. Many of these early exercises are designed to help keep the circulation going in your legs and feet, decrease your risk of clotting and keep your muscles engaged. Some of the post-surgery circulation exercises prescribed to you may include:  

  • Ankle pumps:

Lie on your back with your legs straight. Flex your foot so your toes are reaching back toward your knee. Hold for 5 seconds. Then point your toes away from your knee and hold for 5 seconds. This exercise will help keep the circulation going in your leg and decrease the risk of clotting. 

  • Quad squeezes:

Lie on your back with your legs straight.  Tighten your thigh muscles and try to push the back of your knee down into the bed. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Do this 10 times. This will help stimulate the quadriceps, the muscles that support and control your knee. 

  • Glute squeezes:

Lie on your back with your legs straight. Tighten your buttock muscles and squeeze. Hold for 5 seconds. Do this 10 times. Your glutes play an important role in leg stabilization, and this exercise will help keep them in good circulation and strength while you’re recovering from knee surgery. 

Strength and mobility exercises

Your physical therapy following knee surgery will also include strength conditioning. Your PT will customize a program of exercises designed to keep your joint supple and to gradually increase the strength in your leg. Many of the exercises can be advanced with increased repetition or added weight. Your strength exercises after knee surgery may include: 

  • Leg raises:

Lie down on your back. Bend your non-surgery knee and straighten your affected knee. Raise your straight leg about 12 inches off the ground. Then lower and relax.  

  • Partial squats:

Stand in front of a chair and hold onto the back of it. Keep your back straight and slowly bend your knees. In the beginning, you may only be able to bend an inch or two, but as you continue to recover your strength and mobility, you will be able to bend further. Your PT will probably recommend that you stop at 90 degrees. 

  • Single leg knee bend:

Stand in front of a chair and hold onto the back. This time, bend your non-surgery knee so the foot comes up off the floor. Then slowly bend your affected knee. 

  • Step-ups:

Use a stair, a footstool, or other type of sturdy platform approximately 6 inches off the ground. Step up slowly with your affected leg. This exercise can be done with forward steps or lateral steps, and the height of the platform can increase as you continue to regain your leg strength. 


Looking for help while you recover from knee surgery? 

At Bella Vista Health Center in San Diego, we offer a full-service 5-star skilled nursing facility that has everything you need to recover from knee surgery.

From physical therapy and occupational therapy to nutritious meals and concierge services, we offer top-notch skilled nursing care by experienced medical professionals. If you or someone you love is in need of rehabilitative care, stop by and see us in Lemon Grove today. Give us a call at (619) 644-1000 to learn more about recovery options.