Following leg surgery, the muscles in your leg will be weak from lack of use and have a decreased range of motion. It’s therefore important to work on building up lost strength, mobility, and flexibility as soon as you’re able to. You’ll have the option of working with a physical therapist or on your own at home during your rehabilitation period. Research has shown that inpatient rehabilitation and monitored home programs are just as effective as each other. One month after surgery, no major differences in abilities to sit, walk, use stairs, and continue other daily activities were found between these two groups of patients, a study by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found. So, you can opt to return home after surgery without worrying about slowing down your recovery.
Before you begin
Always consult your doctor about resuming physical activity. They may prescribe a physical therapist to create an exercise plan tailored to your specific needs. Start out with small exercises and gradually work your way back up to your normal activity level. Once you’ve regained strength, you can then start low-impact exercises (with the go-ahead from your doctor). Low-impact exercises are gentle on your joints and include walking, stationary biking, and swimming.
If you’ve had surgery for varicose veins, always wear compression stockings during exercise. They’re essential for increasing blood circulation to the veins. Not wearing them could potentially harm your legs and cause new varicose veins to form. The following simple exercises are effective after any leg surgery, including varicose vein surgery, for improving circulation, preventing blood clots — contracting your leg muscles during exercise moves blood through the veins — and increasing range of motion.
Simple leg exercises
Ankle pumps: This is an exercise you can do in the recovery room. Move your foot up and down repeatedly by contracting the calf and shin muscles. Repeat for two minutes twice every hour.
Leg raise: Lie on your back and raise your leg about twelve inches off the ground while keeping your knee straight. Hold for ten seconds and gradually lower. Repeat ten times.
Strengthen hamstrings: Your hamstring muscles are crucial for building up your walking ability. Strengthen them by lying on your stomach and lifting your leg about twelve inches off the ground. Hold for five seconds and lower slowly. Repeat ten times.
Heel slide: Lie on your back and bend your knee while slowly sliding your heel upward towards you. Hold for five seconds. Slowly straighten your leg and repeat.
Single-leg balance: When you’re able, stand one leg for as long as possible. Time yourself. Aim to increase the length of time you can balance on one leg each day.
Keeping to a consistent exercise regime — at home or in physical therapy — will gradually improve your leg strength, mobility, and flexibility safely over time. If you experience pain or swelling after you exercise, ice your leg and elevate it. If you encounter any problems or need advice, consult with your doctor or physical therapist.
Author: Sally Writes
Photo by R.H. Lee on Unsplash