How Hard Should You Push Your Knee in Rehab Before or After Surgery?

This is a question from a reader that I have never talked about on this site and thought I should share it with everyone. It is from Henry(name changed) who is in the military so a working knee is a lot more important to his livihood than those of us with an office job. He is wondering how hard should he be pushing his knee in rehab after his surgery. 

I’m in the military and I got injured at a crucial time in my career. My biggest fear is of doing too much exercise and not letting my knee heal properly. The reverse also holds true as in doing too little and having the knee not become strong enough. Physical fitness is very important in my profession, more so now because I’m just 2 years into my service. Please advise me on the extent to which I should exert myself during physiotherapy exercise.

What are the sensations I should look out for as a warning sign that I’m exerting too much? Or conversely, how would I know that I need to exercise more?

It is now 26 days post surgery. I used to lead a physically active life before my injury so sitting still is very difficult. Getting better is priority number one. I just don’t want to overdo or for that matter ‘under’-do it.

Ideally what should be my level of mobility at this time post surgery? I’m able to walk without crutches or any other support. But I do wear a knee brace. Stairs are an obstacle at this point. I can climb up, but walking downstairs is a problem.


Thanks Henry for the question and sorry to hear about your injury!

 The question of how hard should you push your knee in rehab either before surgery or after surgery is best answered by your Physio.
Its tough to convey via text but my belief is that your body will tell you when you are pushing your knee too hard.
For me these are the 2 things I watched for when rehabbing my injured knee to know I was working too hard…
1. Pain
Your knee should not be in pain, discomfort yes but pain no. You can do physio on your knee without being in pain. ON the classic scale of 0-10 what kind of pain are you in I would suggest you should be at no more than a 3 while rehabbing your knee.

This Would Be Too Intense

2. Swelling
If your knee swells up significantly after you have done exercises than you know you have pushed it too much. A little swelling after exercising is tough to avoid, many people still get some years after surgery. So the goal is minimal increase in swelling after exercises and any increase should go away quickly (1/2 day). If your knee “blows” up and takes a couple days to get back down you know you have pushed your knee too much.
What “signs” or “rules” do other people use when it comes to how hard they can push their knee in Rehab?

The Top 5 At Home Exercises
I did that helped get me walking 4 days after surgery

Click Here to see the exercises