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Knee surgery rehabilitation protocol

This information is intended to complement what you will receive from the hospital when you are admitted and covers surgery for total joint replacement, patellofemoral joint and unicompartmental joint arthroplasty. Its aim is to help you prepare for your joint surgery and subsequent return home and to give a few pointers as to what to expect. The Precision Surgery website gives you a good guide to knee arthroplasty.

Prior to surgery

Many surgeons advise having some physiotherapy prior to your operation, to make sure that your muscles are in the best possible state beforehand. This can really help to aid and speed up your recovery.


Your stay in hospital will be about five days. During this time you will be seen by a physiotherapist who will help you to walk and teach you some basic exercises for you to continue when you go home. Usually there is the opportunity of hydrotherapy for a couple of days; this is a good way of relieving some of the stiffness you may have and helping with your general mobility. Before your discharge the physiotherapist will make sure you are confident going up and down stairs.

Once you go home you should continue to do the exercises you have been given and slowly increase your mobility by taking gradually longer walks. When you feel strong enough it is fine to go up and down stairs normally (usually between three and six weeks). During the first few weeks continuing with hydrotherapy can be helpful. Once you feel a bit stronger it is helpful to be reviewed by a physiotherapist who can progress your exercises appropriately. Physiotherapy can be particularly helpful if you are finding it difficult to fully straighten your knee or get your thigh muscles working well.

Exercises which might be useful at this stage:

  • Hamstring and calf stretches
  • Heel raises
  • Quadriceps exercises (taught by hospital/physiotherapist)
  • Prone lying knee bends

It is advisable to take four weeks off from work and "stressful" activities. However, you will find that after two weeks you are feeling well enough to do some work on a part time basis, but it is best to avoid having to attend big meetings etc. Doing it this way will help make it a more enjoyable experience and in turn you will feel better more quickly. You should not drive or fly for four weeks.

By the time you see your surgeon at the six weeks mark you will be feeling pretty good, but will probably still be feeling a bit stiff and sore from time to time. This is to be expected and as long as your surgeon is happy with your progress you will be able to get on and work towards getting back to your normal activities. It takes about nine months to a year to really feel you are back to normal and as strong as you want to be. If you are planning to return to sport it is worth getting advice from a physiotherapist to ensure you are as strong and mobile as possible.

Advanced exercises:

  • Using a stationary bike
  • Walking on a treadmill
  • Progression of quadriceps and hamstring exercises (e.g. lunges and step ups/downs)
  • Balance work


You will see from the above that physiotherapy is an important part of your rehabilitation. Your physiotherapy will include an assessment and appropriate programme of exercises and joint and soft tissue mobilisation. Apart from helping to make you more comfortable it will help give you confidence and motivation.


A few items which may be useful to have during your first six weeks of recovery are a raised loo seat, a long handled shoe horn and a picker up device. The hospital will have information as to where these and other items can be hired or bought.

Preparing for discharge

When you go home you will be pretty independent and able to do most things for yourself. However, it is probably worth arranging with friends or relatives a little help for things like shopping and cooking. You may also need some help getting socks on, so it is worth thinking through these things before you go into hospital.

You may find it difficult to sit in low chairs so it is worth checking that you have a suitable and comfortable chair to sit in when you come home. You may also find it difficult sitting down in a bath for the first few weeks, so you may want to arrange access to a shower. If you have any other questions or require further information you can contact Sprint Physiotherapy or the hospital where you are going to have your surgery.

Please contact us to book an appointment or for more information on any of the services available at our clinic in Kensington.

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Our services cover the following locations (if your location is not listed please don't hesistate to get in touch and ask us if we can help you):

Kensington - W8 - W14 - SW7 - Notting Hill - W11 - W2 - W10 - Chelsea - SW10 - Knightsbridge SW1 - SW3 - Fulham - W6 - Hammersmith - W6 - W12 - Hyde Park and Holland Park, Paddington, Bayswater, Marylebone W1, W2

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Sprint Physiotherapy
Sprint Physiotherapy
2 Drayson Mews
W8 4LY
Paddington Clinic
Sprint Physiotherapy
Winston Churchill Wing
St Mary's Hospital
Winsland Mews
W2 1NY
Hammersmith Clinic
Hydrotherapy Department
Ground Floor, South Wing
Charing Cross Hospital
Fulham Palace Road
W6 8RF
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