Everyday Movements to Practice Before a Hip or Knee Replacement

As your hip or knee replacement surgery approaches, daily PreHab exercises aren’t the only movements you should be doing. You will want to practice some of the actions or motions you’ll actually be doing every day. How will you get into shower after your knee replacement? How will you sit on a toilet seat while your hip is out of commission? How will you get in and out of the car to go to your appointments? Understandably, these questions may trigger pre-surgery jitters, but this anxiety can be alleviated with practice.

In the days leading up to surgery, we suggest you test out a few key movements or actions that will be unavoidable after surgery. Run through these trial run motions while putting as little pressure on your surgical knee or hip as possible. Practicing things like sitting on the toilet or getting into the shower will make life easier once you’re released from the hospital.

As you practice these movements and prep for your joint replacement, keep your eyes on the prize: increased mobility, a life without pain, and returning to the activities you love!

Here are the everyday activities/motions we suggest you practice before surgery.

Getting In and Out of the Car

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The first few times getting in and out of the car will be tricky. If your vehicle is too low or too high from the ground, it may be extra difficult. After the procedure, plan to leave the hospital in the same car you’ve practiced getting in and out of, but don’t plan on driving! You should never drive when taking pain medicine.

Here’s how to get in the car following the procedure:

  1. Use your walking device to approach the car. Once the car door has been opened, turn around so that your back is facing the seat.
  2. Place your surgical leg forward.
  3. Reach back and find a stable hand hold (dashboard, back of seat, roof handle etc.).
  4. With the support of a stable hand hold, slowly lower yourself onto the seat.
  5. Slide as far back into the seat as possible. Lean back as you lift each leg into the car. You may need help to lift your surgical leg.

Getting out of the car:

  1. Slide your body toward the seat and lean back as you lift each leg out of the car. You may need help to lift your surgical leg.
  2. Shift your body to the edge of the seat and place both feet flat on the ground. Do not attempt to get out of the car on a hill or uneven terrain.
  3. Place your surgical leg forward.
  4. Using the same hand holds, push with your arms and your nonsurgical leg to stand. Try to avoid placing weight on your surgical side.
  5. Once you’re balanced, reach for your walking device and pull yourself up.

Tips: Have a hard pillow propped on the seat and cover the cushion with a plastic bag. Leaving the hospital, ask for a nurse’s apron to place on the car seat. This will make the car easier to slide in and out of.

Getting In and Out of an Arm Chair

Practicing getting in and out of a chair will make you more comfortable with the movement post-op. Higher seats will prevent you from over-flexing your hip joint or putting pressure on your knee. When you’re lowering yourself into a seat, height is right!

Here’s how to sit on an arm chair:

  1. Back up until you feel the chair against the back of your legs.
  2. Place your surgical leg forward.
  3. Reach back, placing both hands on the armrests and sit down gently.

Getting out of the chair:

  1. Place your surgical leg forward.
  2. Push up with both arms, holding the chair arms and place both feet on the ground.
  3. Reach for your walking device once you’ve regained your balance.

Tips: Higher chairs and chairs with arms will be easier to get in and out of. Before surgery, place arm chairs in designated spots throughout your main floor living space.

Getting On and Off the Toilet

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If you haven’t installed a comfort height toilet or a raised toilet seat yet, having one put in before surgery will make bathroom visits a whole lot easier. Higher seats—toilet or otherwise—will prevent you from over-working or injuring your surgical joint. When you’re lowering yourself onto the toilet, the extra 2 inches of a raised toilet seat will make a world of difference! Also, make sure you've installed at least one grab bar safely mounted onto the wall at a proper height.

Here’s how to sit on a toilet:

  1. Back up until you feel the toilet against the back of your legs.
  2. Place your surgical leg forward.
  3. Reach back, placing both hands on the horizontal grab bar and sit down gently.

Getting off the toilet:

  1. Place your surgical leg forward.
  2. Holding the vertical grab bar, push up with both arms and place both feet on the ground.
  3. Reach for your walking device once you’ve regained your balance.

Tips: Install a horizontal and vertical grab bar on either side of your toilet to assist your getting on and off. The horizontal bar helps you get onto the toilet and the vertical assists with standing back up.

Getting In and Out of a BathTub or Shower

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Getting in and out of the shower will feel like a daunting, even scary, task post-op. Practicing this movement beforehand will let you know where to best place your handrails or grab bars for added safety, support and confidence. As you probably already know, the bathtub and shower will be quite slippery. For this reason, you’ll need a non-slip bath mat in your tub as well as outside the tub or shower, and a secured chair to shower on.

Here’s how to get in the shower:

  1. Buy a shower seat or bathroom commode chair at a medical supply store. Better yet, get one delivered to your house before surgery.
  2. Approach the bathtub chair from the side and place your surgical leg forward.
  3. Reach back for bathtub chair or installed handrail and slowly sit down.
  4. Slide back into the chair.
  5. Lean back as you lift each leg into the tub. If needed, ask for help lifting your surgical leg into the tub. Shower sitting on your bathtub chair.

Getting out of the shower:

  1. To get out of the tub, lean back as you lift each leg out. You may need help to lift your surgical leg.
  2. Place your surgical leg forward.
  3. Push up from the tub chair, using hand rails for support.
  4. Ensure you’re well-balanced before reaching for your walking device.

Tips: Install horizontal and vertical grab bars. Like getting on and off the toilet, these bars will make getting in and out of the bathtub/shower much more seamless. Also, install a handheld shower head attachment with a long hose. This way, you can shower from the comfort of your shower seat or commode chair.

Practice Walking Around With Your Mobility Equipment

Pre-ordering mobility equipment—most likely a walker AND crutches or a cane—is an absolute must. We suggest ordering your equipment well in advance so that you can get accustomed to the equipment before surgery. You’ll want to test drive your walker around the house to make sure you’ve cleared wide enough paths or “roadways” and also to safety proof any questionable corners, furnishings, rugs etc., that may cause you trouble.

The learning curve for a walker, crutches or a cane is very slight. You’ll be an expert in no time. Testing these items beforehand is just one less thing you’ll have to worry about in the hospital and when you get home.


Having an upcoming joint replacement surgery scheduled can be a scary thing. We find that the best way to address any fear or anxiety it to take action through preparation, diet, exercise, and peer support. This is why we’ve created PeerWell PreHab specifically for hip and knee replacement candidates getting ready for the procedure.

PeerWell PreHab leverages leading health science and expertise from the nation’s best orthopaedic surgeons to deliver daily tasks to optimize your health and preparedness before a hip or knee replacement. Join PeerWell and connect with patients just like you today.

Did you find this post helpful? Do you have any comments or questions for our team of health experts? Drop us a line!

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Hi, I'm Grace. I write all things surgery for the PeerWell blog. You may remember me from such titles as: "Diabetes & Joint Replacement 101" & "Sex After a Joint Replacement".

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