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Physical therapy after leg surgery


Before surgery

  • When your child comes to the hospital for surgery, bring any knee braces, crutches, and anything else the physical therapist provided.
  • Bring your child shorts or pants that are easy to slip over the bulky dressing and the brace.
  • Bring comfortable shoes like tennis shoes that are easy to get on and off. Please do not bring house shoes, flip flops, or Crocs®.
  • If possible and suggested by the doctor or therapist, your child should be walking before surgery. This will keep him strong.

After surgery

  • Your child should be ready to get out of the bed the morning after surgery with the help of the physical therapist.
  • Your child should be ready to try to walk with the therapist in the afternoon the day after surgery.
  • Moving is very important for your child after surgery. We may need to encourage your child to do more than he feels like doing.
  • Parents or other caregivers must be present for the first days of physical therapy to learn how to help your child out of bed and how to use braces, machines, and other needed items.
  • After some surgeries, your child should use the continuous passive motion (CPM) machine every day as scheduled. This will help blood flow better, lessen pain, and reduce swelling.
  • Sometimes it may be hard for the medical staff to feel a pulse in your child’s ankle after surgery. This may delay therapy because his leg may need to be bent for a whole day to improve blood flow.
  • If your child was given a nerve block for pain, he may have trouble feeling his leg.
  • It may be hard for your child to move his foot up and down after surgery. If so, he will have a brace to keep the foot in proper position.
  • In therapy, your child will work on getting out of bed, walking around, moving the leg, and other activities.
  • Because movement can increase pain, you might want to ask the nurse for pain medicine before therapy even if your child is not hurting then.
  • Your child should not be in a wheelchair after release from the hospital.
  • After being released from the hospital, your child will return for physical therapy visits.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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