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When You’re Having a Knee Replacement

Activity Guidelines

​​Movements to Avoid After Surgery

​​While you should increase your activities after surgery a little at a time, there are some movements you should not do.

  • Don’t jar or twist your new knee suddenly. Make sure you don’t bend it in an uncontrolled way.
  • Don’t cross your legs.
  • Don’t sleep with a pillow under your knee. It can cause a permanent bend in your knee or put pressure on blood vessels in your leg.

Twisting and Turning

  • Always keep your toes and your upper body facing ​the same direction.
  • Take small steps when turning, instead of twisting or pivoting on your leg.

General​ ​Guidelines

The First 3 Months after Surgery

  • Walking
  • Phase 1 exercises
  • Swimming and other pool exercises: Be careful not to do any twisting motions such as a knee kick. Don’t use the ​pool until incision is completely healed.
  • Cycling: the seat must be set high enough so that you don’t have to bend your knee too much.
  • Phase 2 exercises – start when your Case Manager or physiotherapist tells you to.

After 3 Months

  • Low-impact fitness exercises that don’t involve jumping, twisting, quick starts or stops, or other movements that put sudden force on your knee
  • Walking on a treadmill and light hiking
  • Cycling on a regular bicycle. Adjust the seat height as often as you need to let your knee bend comfortably
  • Golfing
  • Slow, gentle dancing
  • Light hiking
  • Gardening: Use raised beds or long-handled tools so you don’t kneel on your new knee.

Activities NOT to Do

  • ​Do not lift and push heavy objects (25 lbs. or 11 kg)
  • Do not do any activities involving jumping, twisting, quick starts or stops, or other movements that put sudden force on your knee
  • Do not do contact sports

Sexual Positions​

Many people have questions about intimate relations after a knee replacement. While it’s usually safe for your knee joint about 4 to 6 weeks after surgery, you also have to feel ready and be comfortable.

For the first 3 months you have to protect the new joint. These pictures show you the positions that are safe and the ones that aren’t safe for your new knee joint.

  • Tell your partner what’s comfortable or if a position causes pain.
  • Make sure you’re comfortable before you start. Using pillows may help.
  • No sudden movements.
  • Make sure your partner doesn’t put their full weight on your new knee joint.

Safe Positions for the Knee Joint


​Positions Not Safe ​for the Knee Joint

Knee bends too much.

Too much pressure on knee.

*Illustrations from Returning to Sexual Activity following Joint Replacement Surgery (Vancouver Coastal Health, 2013) and Sex after Joint Replacement Surgery (London Health Sciences Centre, 2013)


Current as of: May 6, 2019

Author: Bone and Joint Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services