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Pre-Knee Replacement: Knee Bends/Extensions, Heel Slides

Doing these exercises BEFORE your knee replacement can help speed your recovery. Ask your physical therapist (PT) or surgeon whether you should exercise one or both legs. Unless you’re told otherwise, start by doing each exercise 5 to 10 times (5 and 10 reps) twice a day. As you get stronger, slowly increase the number of reps and sets.

Stop any exercise that causes sharp or increased knee pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, or chest pain.

Leg from knee down showing short-arc knee extensions.
 Short-arc knee extensions

  • Roll up several towels into a roll 6 to 8 inches thick. Lie in bed. Put the rolled-up towels under one knee. Bend the other knee.

  • Keeping your knee on the roll of towels, lift your foot to straighten the knee. Hold for a 5 to 10 seconds. Then slowly lower the foot.

Leg from knee down showing heel slides.
 Heel slides

  • Lie down or sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. Put a plastic bag or cookie sheet under one foot to help it slide.

  • Slide the heel toward your buttocks while keeping it on the bed. Move it as far as you comfortably can. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then slide your heel back.

Person from waist down showing standing knee bends.
 Standing knee bends

  • Stand while holding on to a steady surface, such as a table.

  • Bend your knee as far as it will go comfortably. Hold for a 5 to 10 seconds. Slowly lower the leg.


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