Best Sleeping Position After Knee Arthroscopy

Written By on January 24, 2021 — Medically Reviewed By Kristopher Ceniza

Written by on January 24, 2021 — Medically Reviewed By: Kristopher Cenzia

What is the best position to sleep after knee arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy refers to the surgical procedure used by doctors. When you have a significant knee injury, arthroscopy can be used to view the knee joint with only a small incision through the skin and soft tissue.

It can be used to diagnose and even treat a range of knee problems that may occur. It is becoming a more popular procedure as it is much less invasive than many alternatives.

After an arthroscopy has been performed many can find it very uncomfortable to sit and even sleep. A good night’s sleep is essential during recovery, along with a healthy diet and later physical exercise.

It has been found that the best position to sleep in post-surgery is to sleep on your back. Sleeping on your side, the opposite side to that of your injured knee is also a preferable position for some who are experiencing pain after meniscus surgery or arthroscopic surgery.

If you are having trouble sleeping after your arthroscopic surgery then you may want to try some of the positions listed below and see if this can help you to get that all-important sleep you will be needing throughout recovery.

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A man sleeping on his back, best sleeping position after knee arthroscopy, Prop up your surgical leg with two or three pillows, but do not put the pillows behind the knee

1. Sleeping on Your Back

This is, of course, the optimal position. Prop up your surgical leg with two or three pillows, but do not put the pillows behind the knee. If you have access to a foam wedge then you may want to use this instead.

It is important to keep your leg above your heart to minimize pain and swelling during the night. Some doctors do not recommend a foam wedge so it is best to consult your physician before doing so.

Knee Force Knee Sleeve

best for your recovery, to sleep on your non-operative side

2. Sleeping on Your Side

You may be used to sleeping on your side, and this is certainly fine as well. For this, you will find it most comfortable, and best for your recovery, to sleep on your non-operative side. The operative side will be facing the ceiling in this case.

It is important in this position to place two pillows between your legs. You will need to do this for the first six weeks after your surgery. If you are still experiencing pain then you may want to use the pillow between your legs for a little longer than the six week period.

It is important in this position to not shuffle one leg forward and to never cross your legs.

You should also be aware that it is never safe to sleep on your stomach after any knee surgery. You must not attempt to lie in this position. The other position that you should definitely avoid is laying on your side on your injured knee.

It is best to consult with your doctor after your surgery to see if there are any other positions, sleeping or not, that you should avoid during recovery.

At six weeks you can see your doctor again and deduce whether it is safe to return to your normal sleeping positions or not. This will entirely depend on how well your knee has healed at this time. It is different for everyone which is why you should seek medical advice in this instance.

the knee is swollen and the skin near the cuts, or incisions, is a different color

Swelling After Knee Arthroscopy

The swelling of the knee is not limited to post-surgery. This inflammation can occur at any point during a knee injury, from before to after any significant surgical procedure.

However, after an arthroscopy your knee will be swollen, this is a given. You may even notice that the knee is swollen and the skin near the cuts, or incisions, is a different color.

Swelling is a normal part of the healing process. You must understand that it will begin to subside in a matter of days. Elevating your leg, keeping it raised above your heart, will help with both the pain and swelling. It can take around 6 weeks to recover.

As with all injuries, it will take time to recover from an arthroscopy as it is an invasive surgery. Swelling is your body’s way of increasing circulation to the area to promote healing.

It may add to the pain of the injury, but this will reduce over time. You must ensure that during this period you get enough rest and try not to use your knee joint too extensively by limiting activity for the first few days at least.

There is no position that is safe to put a pillow under your knee after arthroscopy or any other knee surgery

Should you use a pillow under your knee after knee replacement?

There is no position that is safe to put a pillow under your knee after arthroscopy or any other knee surgery. This is a definite no-no.

It may seem like a good idea to support your leg, and it is true that when you are in a sitting or lying position you should keep your leg elevated. It should be over your heart so that the blood circulates back towards your heart and promotes healing.

Having the pillow directly under your knee should never be done post-surgery. It will force your knee to stay slightly flexed and this will have a vastly negative effect on your recovery.

Putting the pillows stacked under your ankle is a better option as this will keep your knee straight while also keeping it elevated. This is especially true while sleeping on your back too.

There are some positions that are preferable to promote faster recovery following knee surgery

The best position for the leg after knee surgery

There are some positions that are preferable to promote faster recovery following knee surgery. We have covered the best sleeping positions, but what about other day-to-day activities?

It does not have to mean you are stationary during your entire recovery, but there are some positions that will make it easier, and less painful, to move post-surgery. Below are some helpful movements and activities that you can utilize without hindering the healing process.

Sitting up in bed and standing

This everyday task can be challenging following knee surgery. If it is at all possible, try and get out of bed on the non-operative side. This will ensure that your operative leg is supported as much as possible during the whole affair.

Straighten the operated leg in front of your before standing. Make sure you are balanced while sitting before you attempt to stand. If you are using a walker make sure it is centered in front of you.

Push up from the bed on both hands and keep the majority of the weight on your non-operative leg.

Knee Force Knee Sleeve

Standing to get into bed

To get into bed, sit down on the edge of the bed placing at least one hand on the bed while you lower yourself down. You must keep the operated leg further ahead of you in order to avoid straining it.

Enter the bed leading with your operated side if this is possible. So this means that you will get into bed on one side and get out of bed on the other.

Bring both your legs up onto the bed while you lower your upper body with your hands and then with your elbows.

Bathing or showering

Showering in a bathtub or in a shower stall may only be done under advice from your doctor. You must seek their approval as these are areas that can cause slips and one wrong move may set your recovery back weeks or even months.

Getting into the bath to take a shower

You will need a bath chair placed in the direction facing the shower faucets. You can use the walked to back up to the chair if you are using one at a time.

Reach back with one hand on the chair and sit down with your legs outside the bath. Place one leg in the bath at a time.

Getting out of the bath

While you are seated in the bath chair, turn your body, and take your legs out of the tub one leg at a time. Push up from the tub chair and stand using both hands against the walker or alternatively using your crutches.

Toilet transfers

Post-surgery you will find that it is the lowest surface that will cause the most pain. This is because you are bending the knee more to sit than you do standing and walking.

There are a few things that your physical therapist may recommend to assist with daily tasks, like sitting on the toilet. One option is the raised toilet seat or even a three-in-one commode that you can use over your toilet.

To sit on the toilet you must first back up toward it. Reach for the raised toilet seat or the armrests of the toilet chair. Slide the operated leg forward slightly and lower yourself down onto the toilet slowly.

To stand again place your hand on the center bar of the walker. Stand up and ensure you have your balance before you put both hands on the walker and proceed.


You will want to remain seated while putting on a top or dress Try and restrict twisting of the knee while putting on shoes. You may want to utilize a sock aid or dressing stick and long-handled shoehorns may also be beneficial.


Stairs should be limited following surgery, and you should also seek approval from your doctor before attempting stairs of any kind. If you are restricted to a walker for the time being stairs should be avoided completely.

Once you are able to tackle stairs, you should always approach them with your non-operative leg first. The operative legs should come afterward. Going downstairs is taken in the opposite direction. You should start with your operative leg followed by the non-operative leg.

One step at a time, as per the saying, should be your approach when taking the stairs. Have both feet firmly on the step before proceeding to the next one.

Car transfers

During your recovery, you may need someone to assist you to get in and out of the car. Likely you will be unable to drive yourself at this point so whoever is driving you can certainly help to ensure your safety and comfort.

The seat should be at the height of your mid-thigh, so you may need additional cushioning on the car seat. Low and bucket seats should be avoided completely. Before you get in the seat should be slid back as far as possible. You may also want it slightly reclined.

To repair a torn meniscus you must go through extensive rehabilitation

Meniscus Surgery Recovery Timeline

To repair a torn meniscus you must go through extensive rehabilitation. But how long will it take generally to return to normalcy? This will vary from person to person, but the general timeline for recovery is outlined for you below.

As far as bearing weight on the injured joint you can do this right away. For more extensive surgery and injuries to the meniscus, this may only be done with the aid of a brace. If you require a brace then you must use it until you can bear weight on your leg without pain.

Walking without crutches may take anywhere between 2 days and 6 weeks.

Driving may only be performed if you do not experience extensive pain and are not taking opioids. Generally speaking, this is between one and six weeks.

You will regain your full range of motion between 1 and 2 weeks for uncomplicated meniscus surgery. However, after more extensive surgery motion should be restricted to no more than 90-degree angles for the first 4 weeks and a full range of motion will return in 6 weeks’ time.

Heavy work and sports is the last step in the recovery process. For extensive surgery, this may need to wait up to 6 months but it can be as little as 6 weeks with the doctor’s approval.

There are many people who experience some painful symptoms following meniscus surgery

Pain after arthroscopic knee surgery for a torn meniscus

There are many people who experience some painful symptoms following meniscus surgery. This can include popping, cracking, or swelling post-surgery.

These can all be quite uncomfortable, irritating, or even painful, but it is important to note that they are all normal in the recovery process. They will also resolve in time as the knee heals itself in the weeks to come.

Mitch Torres (PT)
Mitch is a physical therapist, personal trainer, and nutrition coach. Fascinated with the knee joint, Mitch poured that passion into writing about knee pain and how to overcome it with movement. His goal is to teach you how to apply this knowledge into your daily life, so you can keep knee pain away for good.