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Elevation: Doing It the Right Way

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Nurse Director
Jun 8, 2007
The North
United Kingdom United Kingdom
This is applicable to both hips and knees.

Please note, these illustrations are not meaning to imply that you need the devices shown.
The proper positions can be as easily achieved using pillows, cushions or rolled up blankets.

It's not enough to just put your foot on a foot stool like these

foot stool 2.jpg
foot stool 1.jpg

and the leg flap on some recliners only comes up to about 30 or 40 degrees before the back rest starts to go down and maybe even stays below seat level after that which isn't much good either.

foot stool recliner.jpg

For TKRs, it's also NOT a great idea to try and elevate with your leg totally straight like this as it stresses the muscles at the back of your knee tremendously, causing quite severe pain - and you already have enough of that anyway!

elevating angles.jpg

Yes, I know PTs get very upset and say "NO BENDING ZE KNEES"! but that's not altogether correct either. In a swollen, painful leg, it's positively torture! Besides which a little bend is perfectly okay.

elevate cushion.jpg

But don't EVER use a wedge that keeps your knee bent, either - like this, it really is a

elevate 4.jpg

Nor put a pillow or small wedge under your knee like these

bad elevate 1-horz-vert.jpg

The correct way to elevate

The foot should be above the hip (not the heart!) and the higher the better in order to get good drainage for the lymph and tissue fluid that is the primary cause of swelling. This also helps with the pain levels.

Another rule often quoted is "toes above nose" though this more appropriate in cases of extreme swelling.

Below are the best positions but do remember:

- if you are a hip patient, to observe the 90 degree rule if required
- if you are a knee patient, never have a bundle of pillows or a cushion hard
behind the knee or belly of the calf as it causes compression which might assist the development of blood clots, especially in the early days post-op

- other dangers that can arise if a pad or cushion is placed under the knee
compartment syndrome

- also note how the heels are not in a position to take weight or pressure as this
can lead to sore heels and in extreme cases, maybe even the risk of pressure sores.

Some examples of good elevation:

1. in or on the bed

Hudson shaped wedge.JPG

2. on the settee - though preferably not with your back twisted like the model's!
elevate 2.jpg

3. sitting up on a chair with a highish back to support the spine, neck and head.
elevate 3.jpg

4. using a pillow stack
pillow stack.jpg

But a pillow stack can often fall apart so this was suggested as a reliable alternative.
It's created from 3 cheap pillows from Amazon along with a pack of giant safety pins

pinned pillows.jpg
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