What not to do after knee replacement: The top five mistakes

If you’ve just had a knee replacement or are considering taking the plunge, the healing process may seem a daunting prospect. However, there are plenty of ways to ensure a smooth recovery.

Our list of what to do and what not to do after knee replacement explores what you can do to give yourself the best chance of a full and speedy recovery.

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Top five mistakes after a knee replacement

While your body is healing, it’s important to look after yourself and stay away from activities that could hinder your recovery. Here are the top 5 common mistakes to avoid during your recovery process:

  • doing too much too soon
  • skipping your physio routine
  • ignoring severe pain or complications
  • forgetting about wound care and medication
  • going it alone.

What not to do after knee replacement surgery

Join us as we take a closer look at some of the activities that are best avoided following knee replacement surgery.

Don’t do too much too soon

Remember that healing takes time and everyone progresses at a different rate. Trying to do too much, too soon could result in your recovery taking longer and cause unnecessary pain or discomfort.

Give yourself time, follow your recovery plan and talk to your doctor about when it is safe to return to work and other daily activities.

If you’re worried about progressing too slowly, talk to your doctor for advice.

Don’t skip your physio and knee exercises

The rehabilitation exercises provided to you will play a key part when recovering from a knee replacement.

You may not feel like moving when your knee feels uncomfortable but it’s important not to give up! Staying mobile in the weeks and months after surgery will help you to recover faster and improve mobility and range of motion in the affected joint.

As your knee starts to heal, you may want to introduce more gentle exercises. You should consult your doctor before attempting these.

Don’t ignore pain

Ignoring severe pain when exercising or doing any activity could result in strain and delay in your recovery. If you are finding the knee pain hard to manage, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe further pain medication and check if anything is wrong.

Don’t forget proper wound care and medication

Proper wound care is essential to avoid infection and complications that could delay recovery. You will be given instructions when leaving the hospital or medical centre on how to care for your wound and how to keep it clean.

It’s very important to take any prescribed medication during your recovery. This can be for pain relief or to manage an existing health issue. Talk to your doctor if you are having any issues taking it or are experiencing any adverse side effects.

Don’t go it alone or ignore professional advice

Whether it’s your orthopaedic surgeon, your physiotherapist or your GP – these professionals have your best interests in mind. Be sure to follow their advice for the best chance of a full recovery.

Don’t use a pillow directly under your knee in bed

While placing a pillow under your calf might feel comfortable, if you put the pillow directly under your knee it will cause it to bend. To avoid excessive stress on the joint replacement, you ideally want to keep your knee as straight as possible while sleeping.

Don’t sit with your legs crossed

Sitting in a crossed-legged position too soon after surgery can put excess pressure on your knee joint. When sitting down, you should try to keep your knees and feet pointing straight ahead.

Don’t sit in low chairs

Sitting on a low seat or sofa can make it tricky to get up again without putting undue stress on your knee. If possible, sit in firm chairs with back support and armrests until you are fully recovered.

Don’t wear unsupportive shoes

Correctly fitting shoes that support your feet will aid your progress when out and about. Avoid flimsy footwear or flip-flops that come with a higher risk of slipping or tripping over.

Don’t sit in the same position for long periods

Sitting still in the same position for more than 45 minutes can increase stiffness in your knee. Instead, try to keep mobile and go for a short walk. You should also try to stretch regularly.

Don’t disregard walking aids or assistive devices

Assistive devices such as walking frames, crutches and walking sticks are designed to support you during your recovery. We understand it may take a little while to get used to, but the benefits are worth it.

Assistive devices take some of the pressure off your knee, helping you to balance. You may also want to consider investing in a ‘reacher’ or ‘grabber’. These enable you to pick things up off the floor without bending or squatting.

Knee replacement exercises to avoid

While some recommended, gentle exercise is beneficial, it’s important not to overdo it and put unnecessary pressure on your new joint as it heals. Here are some sports, exercises and activities to avoid.

High-impact sports

High-impact activities or contact sports such as football, skiing or lifting heavy weights are best avoided throughout your knee replacement recovery period. They carry a high risk of falling which can damage your new joint. Any activity that requires twisting, jumping or running could place too much strain on your new knee.

When turning, rather than twisting, try to take small steps, move your whole body and keep your knees pointing forward.

Activities with a high risk of falling

During your recovery, avoiding ladders should extend to more than just walking under them. You shouldn’t try to climb them as a fall during your recovery stage could cause serious damage.

Activities that put pressure on your knee

Whether it’s lifting a heavy shopping bag or overdoing it on the golf course – physical activities that place excess pressure on your knee should be avoided while you’re still in recovery. Ensure your rehabilitation is a gradual process to avoid injury and unnecessary discomfort.

What to do after a knee replacement

There are plenty of things you can do to help yourself achieve a full recovery. Here are a few tips that will help you get back on your feet.

Prioritise rehabilitation and recovery

Getting back to your favourite activities should be your number one goal. This means doing your exercises, taking medical advice and focusing on rebuilding your strength and mobility.

Keep up regular, gentle exercise

Low impact exercises after knee surgery such as swimming, walking, cycling (on a stationary bike) and gentle strength training can be very beneficial in your recovery.

Make time for rest

Rest is just as important as exercise when it comes to your recovery. This is particularly important immediately after your surgery.

You are likely to feel more tired than usual in the first six weeks at home. Maintaining a healthy balance between rehabilitation and rest is essential for a full recovery.

This may mean booking time off work, asking a friend or family member for some help around the house. Don’t be afraid to say no if you have too much on your plate.

Improve your overall health

Maintaining a balanced and varied diet that contains all the vitamins, minerals and proteins you need for recovery will encourage your body to heal.

Minimising alcohol consumption while maintaining a healthy body weight will reduce the stress placed on the new joint.

Smoking narrows your blood vessels and will likely prolong your recovery. Ask your doctor for resources aimed at helping you quit. He or she can also provide you with help and support to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Use ice packs to reduce swelling

You may want to try using ice packs or heat packs in the days or weeks after your surgery. This can help to ease pain and swelling. Apply the cold pack for around 20 minutes a few times a day until the swelling goes down. Your consultant should be able to offer more tailored advice.

Our top tips for a quick recovery are:

  • keep mobile and stick to your recommended exercise programme
  • attend your physio appointments regularly
  • use mobility aids and supportive braces if recommended by your medical professional
  • try to maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on your new joint.

Pain in your knee?

If you’re experiencing knee pain, try our knee suitability quiz. It will give you an idea of whether you’d benefit from booking a consultation with one of our knee specialists.

Specialist spotlight, Physiotherapy Manager Naomi Abdelmola
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What should I avoid after knee replacement FAQs

We’ve covered a lot of ground so far, but if you’ve still got questions about knee replacement surgery, our dedicated FAQs can help!

Can you bend down after a knee replacement?

You may feel a little stiff and uncomfortable immediately after your surgery. Working with your physiotherapist will help to regain your mobility and strengthen the affected area.

You should also practise bending your knee – by the time you leave hospital, you should be able to bend your knee between 70 – 90 degrees.

Can you walk too much after knee replacement surgery?

It’s important not to overextend yourself during the recovery process. If you experience persistent or increased knee pain, discomfort or swelling while doing any physical activity, it’s best to ease off and seek medical advice.

Walking is a relatively safe and accessible exercise during your recovery period. However, it’s best to start with shorter distances and gradually build up as your strength and mobility improve. Rest is just as important as regaining your strength.

Should I sleep with my leg elevated after knee surgery?

While placing a pillow under your calf to elevate your leg might feel comfortable, if you put the pillow directly under your knee it will cause it to bend. To avoid excessive stress on the new joint, you ideally want to keep your knee as straight as possible while sleeping.

Can you climb the stairs after knee replacement?

For the first couple of days after surgery it may be difficult to climb stairs. However, by the time you leave hospital (usually 2 to 4 days after surgery), you should be able to climb stairs using an assistive device or supporting yourself with your upper body. While you’re still in hospital, your nursing team will practise navigating stairs with you.

How many times a week should I do physiotherapy after knee replacement?

Ideally, you should be exercising your knee a little every day. While you recover, you shouldn’t be afraid to push yourself, but you will need to find a balance to avoid injury. Your physiotherapist will provide you with a personalised recovery plan which will detail how often you should exercise. If you’re unsure, they should be able to advise how frequently you need to exercise, or if you are struggling to stick to your plan.

Are there any permanent restrictions after knee replacement surgery?

If you make a full recovery, there are very few permanent restrictions following knee replacement surgery. You should avoid high-impact activities like skiing and rugby.

Are you ready to relieve pain and get back to the activities you love? Talk to us about knee replacement surgery to see if it could be an option for you.

Gyorgy Lovasz consultant


This article was completed with the help of Gyorgy Lovasz, Consultant Orthopaedic surgeon at Practice Plus Group. Among his qualifications are Specialist of Trauma & Orthopaedics, Budapest, and he spent three years in the UAE as a consultant orthopaedic-trauma surgeon. Mr Lovasz has performed more than 4000 orthopaedic procedures in the UK. His main field of interest is lower limb arthroplasty. Over the last few years Practice Plus Group has grown its Marketing Team to include art workers, campaign and social media managers, content editors, and digital analysts. Together, they provide a responsive and comprehensive service, ensuring all content is on-brand and in-line with relevant medical guidelines.
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