ankle pump exercises for knee replacement recovery

Ankle Pump Exercises After Knee Replacement (Benefits and Tips)

In the days and weeks following knee replacement, ankle pump exercises can be a great way to keep your leg muscles active and keep your blood circulating.

This article shares my experience with ankle pump exercises and ankle circles as well as ankle pump benefits and tips. I’ve done more ankle pumps and ankle circles post TKR than any other exercise prescribed by my therapists.

There are a few reasons why I do so many ankle pumps.

  • One, ankle pumps are easy to do
  • Two, they are pain free
  • Three, you can do ankle pump exercises almost anywhere and at anytime

You can do them in bed, sitting in a recliner and even sitting in a conventional chair. I always pump both ankles, my surgical knee as well as my good knee.

My physician also recommended doing them when sitting in a car or an airplane for long periods of time. I was doing ankle pumps and ankle circles the afternoon of my surgery.

I continue to do them everyday and envision myself doing them the rest of my life. You cannot overdo this exercise.

What Are Ankle Pump and Ankle Circle Exercises (How To Do Ankle Pumps)

ankle pump exercise for knee replacement diagram

Ankle pumps are a simple exercise that require little instruction.

  1. To begin ankle pumps point your toe as far away as possible
  2. Next “pump” your foot in the opposite direction towards your face.  Your toes (and the entire foot) will move from pointing down to pointing up.  Your foot position changes due to movement in the ankle joint.

ankle pump exercises after knee replacement surgeryankle pump exercise after knee replacement surgery

Sometimes I do ankle pump exercises rapidly when I am getting out of bed or after long stints in my recliner. Other times I do slower movements holding each position for about a second.

Make sure you have a comfortable chair or recliner to sit in after TKR as it will make resting and exercising easier.

I usually do 20 ankle pumps before I begin ankle circles.

Ankle circles consist of moving your ankles in a circular motion.

  1. I usually do 1 set of 10 repetitions in one direction.
  2. Then I’ll do another set of 10 repetitions in the opposite direction

ankle circle exercise after TKR surgeryankle circle exercise after knee replacement

I change the speed the same as I do with the ankle pumps. Most of the time I do the ankle pumps and the ankle circles one after the other.

According to my therapist, ankle pumps and ankle circles are most beneficial when your leg is elevated. In the early days after my surgery I always did them with my leg elevated, even when icing. Now I do them several times during the day while sitting in my recliner, lying on the couch, or lying on my bed.

Why Are Ankle Pump Exercises Important

Ankle pumps and ankle circles are easy. They are not painful like a lot of the flexion exercises but they are just as beneficial.

Ankle pumps improve the circulation in your legs and they also help to prevent blood clots and swelling. Your movement and motion which occurs more naturally when you are healthy is severally limited post TKR.

Movement increases blood flow. You want to keep the blood moving and ankle pumps and ankle circles do just that. The more the blood is moving, the less chance you have of developing a clot.

The first few days post TKR you won’t feel like moving around much but you will usually be in a good position to do the pumps and circles.

When I Began Doing Ankle Pumps: The Pain I Experienced

When the hospital physical therapist made her first visit to my room 4 hours after surgery the first exercises she suggested were ankle pumps and ankle circles.

My nurse also encouraged me to do them while I was in the hospital. Even though I had an air cuff on both legs and an ice cuff around my knee they encouraged me to do them as often as possible.

I wasn’t able to do much but the ankle pumps and ankle circles (which were easy to do and pain-free) gave me some early confidence that I could contribute right away towards my own recovery. After discharge from the hospital my home physical therapist also suggested that I do the ankle pumps and the ankle circles frequently.

They were on my first list of printed exercises that she assigned me. She also suggested that I do them between other exercises especially when I transitioned from an extension exercise to a flexion exercise.

Finally, when I began going to my offsite physical therapist he also recommended doing ankle pumps on a regular basis. I still do them as part of my home exercise routine and I continue to do ankle pumps and circles throughout the day six weeks post surgery. They are easy, good for me and they actually feel good.

Mistakes To Avoid When Doing Ankle Pumps

Take your time and do full extensions and full circles with your ankles. Stretch each ankle pump and circle out to the maximum.

Don’t try to go too fast. Elevate your surgical knee above your heart when possible to enhance blood flow. Use a wedge pillow, conventional pillow or the arm of the couch.

I mentioned that I do them even when seated in a conventional chair. But for best results have your leg elevated and supported to take the tension off of the muscles around the knee.

Conclusion

Ankle pumps and ankle circles are two of the most beneficial exercises you can do post-TKR surgery. You can begin doing them immediately after surgery and continue to do them the rest of your life.

They are easy to do and you can do them anywhere. They will help with your TKR recovery and they will also help prevent blood clots.

Every one of my 3 physical therapists recommended them. Take your time and do them correctly. Remember that this is one exercise that won’t wear you out and an exercise that you cannot overdo.

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