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Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid After Knee Surgery

Choosing to undergo knee replacement surgery is a significant decision often driven by the desire to reclaim a life free from debilitating knee pain. Knee replacement surgery does not guarantee that you regain the level of mobility and quality of life you envisioned; it hinges greatly on post-operative care and diligence.


I am Physical Therapist Shehla Rooney, CEO and Creator of GoKnee. I’ll explore the top three mistakes often made during the recovery period after knee replacement surgery that can hinder the recovery process. I will also offer tips to help navigate and expedite this knee recovery journey.


Mistake #1: Not doing the Exercises:

One of the most common mistakes made during knee replacement recovery is neglecting or insufficiently performing the prescribed knee exercises. These exercises are essential for improving flexibility, restoring range of motion (ROM) and strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee joint. However, some individuals may underestimate the importance of these exercises or fail to adhere to their prescribed regimen.

Some patients have said, “I had to take the day off from exercising because the pain was too much”. Unfortunately, taking a day off is not an option. You can ease up. You can modify, but you have to work on bending and straightening everyday.



Tip: Make the exercises a priority in your recovery journey. By priority, I mean treat your recovery like it is your full-time job. Don’t just do the exercises 3 times a day and be done, instead, incorporate the exercises into your daily routine and do something with your knee every hour that you are awake. Consistency is key to achieving optimal results.


Mistake #2 : Overdoing and Pushing Through Pain:

Another mistake many individuals make during knee replacement recovery is pushing too hard or ignoring physical signs that they are doing too much. It is essential to strike a balance between gradually increasing activity levels and avoiding overdoing it.

In my experience as a Physical Therapist, this occurs in two ways:

  1. Individuals don’t tend to push themselves too hard, but instead do too much of the wrong things. For instance, they may stand or walk too much too early and that can lead to setbacks like increased pain, swelling and stiffness, which then inhibits their ability to do the key exercises, of bending and straightening of the knee.

Tip: The first few weeks after surgery, the priority is to get the knee bending and straightening, so just focus on that and pay attention to your body and respect its limitations. 


A pain rating of 5-6/10 when doing the exercises is ok, but if the pain stays at that level after you stop doing the exercises, then you have overdone it. No worries, just ease up next time and eventually you will figure out how hard you can push your knee. 


Walking is not considered exercise at this stage and does not replace the knee bending and straightening exercises.

  1. I am sad to say that overexerting, pushing you past your pain limits and ignoring what your body can tolerate can occur when working with your physical therapist (PT). We have a laser focus with our knee replacement patients, where we want to increase that ROM measurement at all costs. Patients think they need to ‘grin and bear it’, but this is not true. This can result in the PT being overly aggressive too soon, which will lead to setbacks in your recovery, not to mention a lack of trust with your PT.

Tip: Be open and honest with your Physical Therapist. If they are doing something that is very painful, you have every right to ask them to stop. Our expertise is vast, we can come up with a different exercise that accomplishes the same task with less pain. Effective communication with your PT is crucial throughout the recovery process. Once they “hurt” you, your brain will not forget and will try to protect you the next time they lay hands on your knee.


Mistake #3 : Poor Pain Medication Management

Effective pain management is crucial during the recovery period following knee replacement surgery. It is a major surgery, and it comes with real pain. Some individuals avoid taking prescribed pain medications due to concerns about addiction or trying to space them out so they will last longer or to minimize potential side effects.


It is important and key to your recovery to keep ahead of the pain and this is best done by taking the prescribed pain medications on a regular and consistent basis for the first few weeks after surgery. Work closely with your healthcare provider as they can also direct you to what over-the-counter medications can help with breakthrough pain.  This will allow you to effectively perform all the necessary exercises to ensure the best outcomes.


Tip: Take a ‘pain pill’ before your scheduled PT appointments as this will allow you to relax and tolerate some of the exercises better. Use ice after exercising your knee and elevate your leg frequently throughout the day.


Recovery after knee replacement surgery requires patience, dedication, and a proactive approach. By avoiding common mistakes such as not doing the exercises, overdoing the wrong things, and poor pain management, individuals can navigate this journey successfully and achieve better outcomes and a smoother transition back to an active and fulfilling lifestyle.


Remember, your health care team is there to support you every step of the way, so don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance and assistance. With the right mindset and support, a successful recovery is within reach.

Whether you’re planning on knee replacement surgery, or already have had a knee replacement, GoKnee is the best device + home exercise program on the market for your recovery. We’re clinically proven to cut recovery time in half, and back it with a 30-day guarantee. Try GoKnee today for $100 off, use code GO100 at checkout.

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