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A leg elevation pillow, also known as a wedge pillow, will be your best friend as you recover from knee replacement surgery. A knee replacement wedge pillow is perfect for elevation and support.
In the days following TKR surgery your doctor will make sure you’re elevating your leg in the hospital. But it won’t stop when you leave the hospital – it didn’t for me.
In the months after surgery you’ll develop a recovery routine.
Elevation, using the best wedge pillow for knee replacement, will likely become an essential part of your routine. You might think normal pillows will do the job but they can be a real hassle.
In this article, we’ll discuss the best wedge pillow for knee replacement. It’s an often-overlooked item that will help reduce swelling and inflammation in your leg.
We’ll also discuss why it’s important to elevate your knee after TKR, why having your knee at or above heart level helps, and how often you should elevate your knee after surgery.
I’ll share my experience with knee surgery and the wedge pillow I used. Lastly, I’ll share a few of my favorite wedge pillows for knee replacement recovery. Let’s get started.
Best Wedge Pillow After Knee Replacement Surgery
I Use This Pillow!
|DMI Ortho Wedge Pillow||Urethane Foam
-elevates 2 legs
|#2||Millard Leg Elevator||Urethane Foam
-elevates 1 leg
|#3||Restorology Wedge Pillow||Urethane Foam
– elevates 2 legs
|#4||Hermell Zero Gravity Wedge Pillow||Urethane Foam
– elevates 2 legs
– goes between legs for side sleeping
How Often Should I Elevate My Knee Using A Pillow
Literature discussing “how often to elevate one’s knee after TKR” varies. You and your doctor will make the ultimate decision. However, I’ve read anywhere from 1-6 times a day after surgery for approximately 20 minutes.
3-4 times per day in the days following TKR is a reasonable amount that will help reduce inflammation. You’ll experience pain the first two weeks after surgery but soon you’ll be feeling much better. It’s wise to continue elevating your knee a few times a day, especially in the afternoon if you’ve been active during the day.
I had a favorite recliner where I’d elevate and ice my knee while watching the evening news. Icing and elevating the leg at the same time kills 2 birds with one stone – they complement each other but make sure you don’t ice too long (15-20 minutes).
This routine worked well for me as I recovered. It helped prepare me to sleep with less swelling so I’d wake up more refreshed the following day.
5 Best Wedge Pillows After Knee Replacement Surgery
#1 DMI Ortho Bed Wedge Elevated Leg Pillow
This is the wedge pillow I’m using and I like it a lot (see photo)! I’ve used it primarily on my recliner while I’m recovering after exercise and relaxing watching television.
The recliner allows me to lean back and really elevate my leg (read my blog post about the best recliner after TKR)
The DMI leg wedge pillow features a single piece of foam that slopes under your thigh with a platform for your knee and foot.
The color is a nice blue.
This knee replacement pillow measures 8 x 19 x 23 inches and is plenty wide to support both legs if needed. In addition to lower limb surgeries, it is marketed for back pain, knee pain, varicose veins, and phlebitis and recommended to improve sleep.
I don’t believe your height matters – it should work well for tall and short people. Most people are buying it because of leg pain or surgery and their reviews are generally positive.
I like the removable cover and I take it off once a week to wash. I also put a second pillow (regular pillow) under my calf to keep my leg more straight.
It weighs only 2.4 pounds so it’s one of the lighter pillows on our list.
>>check DMI wedge pillow price on Amazon
It does not use memory foam, rather it’s a simple lightweight foam pillow that holds its shape. It works great for me.
#2 Millard Foam Leg Elevator w/ Washable Cover
This is a unique leg wedge that will actually hold your leg in place. I like the structure of this leg elevator and the fact that it is specialized for 1 leg.
Sometimes it’s nice to have both legs raised but this takes up less space and is perfect for a single leg. If you have 2 TKRs you can buy 2.
Millard the leg elevator also has a washable velour cover (velour is a bit hot for me but I won’t complain). Inside the foam is polyurethane with a 45 degree angled thigh ramp.
It measures 32 x 13 x 9.5 inches and weighs 4.3 pounds, making it wide and sturdy enough to hold the largest of legs.
>>check Millard Leg Elevator price and reviews on Amazon
Customers commented that it worked great for post-operations and solid for people over 6 feet tall. The reviews are superb and I like the fact that it holds the leg in place.
When I was using regular pillows my leg often fell off the pillows. I was constantly readjusting pillows to keep my leg on top.
I would probably buy this one if I had surgery again.
#3 Restorology Elevating Leg Rest Pillow
The Restorology pillow wedge is a customer favorite and works perfectly for people recovering from knee replacement surgery. It’s marketed as a way to reduce discomfort from leg and back pain, restless leg syndrome, and injuries or surgeries.
This knee replacement wedge pillow uses ”memory foam” that keeps its shape under the heaviest of loads. Because it uses foam it won’t wear out for a long time.
The leg pillow for TKR has a microfiber cover that can be washed if your wound leaks or if there’s excessive sweating.
The leg wedge pillow measures 24 x 16 x 8 inches and weighs 7.5 pounds. The slope stops at 12 inches. It can be used to support 1 leg or both while sleeping
They offer a money back guarantee for 30-days. Try it out and if it’s not up to your expectations then send it back.
>> check Restorology price and reviews on Amazon
Most reviewers like the product for its use on the legs. Whether after surgery or for just resting the feet and legs after a long day of work, people are using it for various reasons.
There is some confusion with this product on the word “memory foam”. While it’s advertised as memory foam, some customers think it’s just common foam filler.
Either way, the majority of customers like it and I really like the price (well-reviewed with a hard-to-beat price).
#4 Hermell Zero Gravity Elevating Leg Pillow
This zero gravity Hermell is one of the best leg elevation pillows. Similar to the other options on our list it works to maintain the lower spine and coccyx’s curvature.
It can help leg pain, back pain, and restless leg syndrome. It can also be a tool to elevate your leg after TKR.
It’s one of the larger leg elevation pillows on our list. It measures 20 x 26 x 8 inches utilizing a wide platform for both legs if required.
The Hermell knee replacement pillow is made from polyurethane foam and works head and shoulders above the pillow stacking method that I used to begin with..
>>check Hermell wedge pillow price and reviews on Amazon
The leg pillow has a removable cover that can be washed to maintain cleanliness. What I like best about this pillow is the reviews and the fact that it’s made in the U.S.A.
Reviewers say it’s great after knee surgery and works “much better than stacking all the soft pillows in the house”. I didn’t see many negative reviews so this seems to be the best double leg elevation pillow. I like it and I’d buy it.
#5 Ziraki Memory Foam Wedge
I wanted to include this knee replacement pillow on the list in case you’re looking for something different. This pillow will not help to elevate your knee after TKR, however, it might help you sleep.
As we mentioned in the “sleeping” section earlier, it will be difficult to sleep in the days following TKR. Most likely, you’ll be sleeping on your back. If you can’t do so, sleeping on your side could be an alternative.
To be honest, it’s not easy balancing your legs when sleeping on your side. Your top leg might slip and rest behind or in front of your bottom leg.
This memory foam wedge is meant to rest between your legs as you sleep on your side. It’s a smaller pillow that will help keep your knees stable and in-line and keep pressure off the hips which commonly happens when side-sleeping.
It is 100% memory foam with a zippered cover that can be removed to wash. The Ziraki memory foam wedge measures 9.8 x 6.3 x 7.9 inches and weighs only 9.6 ounces.
>>check Ziraki price and reviews on Amazon
I like the quality material and the guarantee of your money back if not satisfied. I also like the reviews that are extremely positive.
Many of the reviewers enjoy how the leg pillow helps sciatica; while others say it helped with pregnancy, back pain, and hip pressure. There are only a few comments about knee replacement surgery, however, I know it would have helped me.
Elevating My Legs After TKR Surgery
Most of us grew up hearing the term “put your legs up and take a load off”. This was usually after a long day’s work. My father did it when he reclined in his favorite chair and I also do it.
There’s something about raising your feet off the ground that’s relaxing.
As my knee became more painful I would come home from work, swallow an ibuprofen with a glass of water and immediately try to elevate my leg to reduce swelling. Although my knee didn’t swell often, I was always proactive with my care.
I viewed knee replacement as inevitable and wanted to do everything possible to delay it. I hoped the technology and procedure would become more advanced and in the meantime I could remain mobile.
In the last few years, I began taking knee replacement seriously. I felt myself limping more and I needed relief. It was time for surgery.
I began doing more research. I spoke with doctors, family members, and searched the Internet for the best way to prepare for knee replacement surgery. Search items included:
- Exercises to prepare
- Exercises after surgery
- Timeline for rehabilitation
- Pain involved with knee replacement
- Time to heal
- Best doctors
- Products to assist with recovery
- …and the list goes on
If you’re visiting my website, I’m sure you’re feeling the same way. Don’t worry, there are thousands of people in the same boat, young and old, who are preparing for TKR.
I was unsure and didn’t know what to expect. One thing is certain: the road to recovery will be challenging and it will take time.
One of the products I feel is under-appreciated is the leg pillow after knee replacement surgery. It’s also known as a wedge pillow and it helps to elevate your leg to improve drainage, blood circulation, swelling, and inflammation.
It will be invaluable after your surgery and you’ll likely use it for 6 months to a year afterward. The photo shown is of me using my wedge pillow just 3 days after knee replacement.
The swelling has gone way down already and I attribute much of that to a routine of ice, elevation, and exercise (check out the ice pack I used after TKR).
Pillow Placement After TKR
In the photo (right) you can see how I’ve positioned my pillows. Sure, you can simply use the wedge pillow and that’s it, but as you’ll learn in the video below, adding 1 or 2 pillows on top of the wedge pillow can help keep the leg straight.
Keeping the leg straight when elevated improves circulation. It’s also more comfortable to keep straight right after surgery when the wound is still healing.
Why Use A Pillow Under The Knee After Knee Replacement
Let’s begin with the basics. In previous articles we discussed why elevation is your friend after TKR. Elevation is part of the acronym “RICE” which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (if you remember anything from this article remember RICE).
After surgery, your doctor will likely have your leg slightly elevated in your hospital bed. Most people understand that elevating your leg will help reduce inflammation and swelling after TKR.
This will also help reduce the chance of infection and blood clots.
According to research in The Knee Journal, researchers found that elevating the leg at 35 degrees from the hip is a safe and effective way to reduce total blood loss by 25%. This was more effective than the leg laying straight.
Keep in mind this is directly after surgery so there are significant blood loss benefits for leg elevation.
As your knee heals you’ll experience swelling in the days and months afterward, especially after physical therapy sessions and exercise. Elevation, along with icing after exercise, will help keep swelling down and keep fluid from building up in the leg.
I’m a firm believer in ice, compression, and elevation after knee surgery. I also wrote a list of the most important items I used after knee replacement. I believe my routine helped me recover more quickly.
Why Elevating Legs Above Your Heart Is Important
People often say the level to elevate your legs should be above the heart. But what does this mean?
If you’re laying flat on your back you don’t need to raise your legs very high to be above your heart (10-20 degree angle). However, if you’re sitting upright, your legs will also need to be high to be level with your heart (you’d be sitting in a V position – not comfy if you ask me).
Simply put, raising your legs above heart level makes it easier for blood to exit your legs and return to your heart which helps filter toxins. Whether it be working all day on our feet or exercising, blood and fluid can build up in our legs and cause swelling (check out my article on the best shoes after TKR).
At night we typically sleep horizontal which makes it easy on our heart to flush out blood and fluid from our limbs. If you’ve recently had an injury, or surgery, elevating your legs more frequently can be healthy.
According to Livestrong, “to improve circulation, elevate legs above the heart level to promote venous drainage and reduce swelling. Furthermore, in excess of 45 degrees is not recommended.
Keep leg(s) elevated for twenty minutes.”
To improve circulation while legs are elevated, move your feet in a circular motion to get blood moving.
Important Characteristics Of A Knee/Leg Elevation Pillow
There are a number of ways to elevate your leg after knee replacement surgery.
- Stack pillows (most common)
- Rest on a higher table or higher on the couch
- Hang your leg in the air (band or fabric)
- Wedge pillow (specifically made for elevating knee/leg)
Early in my recovery, I used pillows. We have a lot of pillows in our home that aren’t being used so it was easy to stack a few.
However it was also cumbersome to move multiple pillows around and keep them stacked upright without falling over. A few of the cons of using standard bed pillows are:
- Need multiple regular pillows
- Often soft and don’t raise leg enough
- Often fall over
- Don’t support whole leg (possibly if used “long” way)
- Moisture gets into the pillow while icing and heating (moisture and sweat)
- Pillows can be ruined
In this article we covered everything on leg elevation pillows and how they can help with total knee replacement recovery. Following your surgery, you’ll want all the help you can get.
Whether it’s medicine, rest, or icing, there are many ways you can overcome the uncomfortable feeling of TKR post surgery.
One term you’ll hear over and over again during recovery is RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). All components of RICE will be important but today we discussed elevation.
If you’re like me, you will stack up your family’s pillows and elevate your knee while watching television. You’ll also stack the pillows while sleeping. However, you’ll find that staying comfortable and keeping your leg on the pillows isn’t as easy as it looks.
In hindsight, I wish I had used a leg elevation pillow or wedge right off the bat. The pillows are an easy-to-use item that supports the whole leg.
The block shape keeps it from falling over – you can even put both legs on the large knee replacement pillow wedge.
We discussed why you want to use a pillow as well as research that highlighted leg elevation after knee replacement surgery. We also considered when and how often you will elevate your knee – more often at the beginning and probably less often after a few months.
Lastly, I shared 5 of the best leg elevation pillows. Many of them are similar in appearance however they differ based on:
- single or double leg
I really liked the Hemell if you’re having double knee replacement surgery and the Millard Foam Leg Elevator for a single knee replacement. Even though I have a preference, I believe any of these would offer significant improvement from using standard pillows (and the possibility of ruining them).
We hope this article helps you in your search for information. One of the reasons I started this blog is to add more information to the Internet about TKR.
I’ve enjoyed writing about and sharing my journey with knee replacement. Best of luck to you as you consider the surgery!