Rehab Exercises for the Knee


Whenever you have a knee injury—whether it’s caused by something you did during your everyday activities, a sports injury, or from knee surgery (such as a knee replacement or arthroscopy) —stretching and strengthening the muscles can help you get over your injury more quickly. Strengthening is also important for keeping the injury from happening again. Lack of strength in the muscles around the knee could have been the cause of the knee injury to begin with. The goal of doing the rehab exercises is not only to strengthen the muscles but to get as close to a full range-of-motion in the joint as possible. Full range-of-motion in the knee means you should be able to bend it from 0° (straight) to 130° (bent) and straighten it from 120° (bent) back to 0° (straight).

It’s also important for you to understand the anatomy of your knee so you know what your knee bones, ligaments and tendons can and cannot do while you’re doing the exercises.

Getting Ready to do Rehab Exercises

Before you begin the exercises you should warm up the tissues in the knee and leg. If you can walk, then 3-5 minutes of walking is a good warm up. If you can’t walk, then use a heating pad wrapped around the knee—use a warm or low setting. Cover as much of the knee as possible, be sure there is warm heat on the front of the knee. Keep the heat on for 5-8 minutes. Start with the stretching exercises the go on to the strengthening exercises. None of the exercises should ever be painful. Gentle stretches are all you need, a good “pull” feeling but not pain. When you do the strengthening exercises, they should not be painful, but when you get to the end of each set you should feel like your muscle is so tired you just can’t do one more—rest for 30-45 seconds and do the next set. You can tell you’re gaining strength because at the end of the set your muscles will feel like you could do more.

When You Want to Know More

Want to Know More?

Why do you need to warm up before doing your exercises?

Your muscles work their hardest only at a certain temperature. Exercising before your muscles are warm can lead to injury and set back your recovery. In addition to finding out how your body is doing that day—are you sore or stiff—warming up gives you these benefits:

  • Warm muscles protect you from injury while doing the exercises.
  • You get the most out of the time spent exercising.
  • You mentally prepare yourself for the exercise ahead.

How long you warm up can vary depending on the time of day. If you want to exercise when you first get up, you may have to warm up longer to get your body going. Later in the day, you body has already been up and around and you may not need to warm up as long as you would have in the morning.

If You Feel Pain Doing the Exercises

Let pain be your guide. If you feel pain while doing the exercises, then either stop the exercises or reduce the intensity to the point you don’t feel pain. Pushing yourself to the point of pain can injure your knee and undo all of your hard work up to that point. Slight discomfort is OK, pain is not.

When You Finish Your Exercises

When you finish the exercises it is important to put ice on your knee—known as RICE therapy. The ice keeps down swelling and helps keep your knee from forming scar tissue inside. If your knee forms scar tissue, it makes it hard to do the exercises the next time and can make your knee stiffen up . It also helps to ice your knee several times a day with an ice pack. Ice your knee for about 20 minutes at the time. Icing longer than 20 minutes doesn’t speed healing but may feel better by numbing any aches.

Range of Motion Exercises for the Knee

Heel Slides

Affected tissues: Soft tissue structures on the front of knee, quadriceps.
Position: Lying on your back or sitting on floor or bed with legs out as straight as possible.
What to do: Bend and straighten your knee by sliding your heel toward your butt and then back to your starting position. Keep your foot flat on the floor or bed.
How many to do: Perform 10 times (1 set), trying to bring your foot closer to your butt each time. Do 1-3 sets of 10, with 30-45 seconds rest between sets.

Wall Slides

Affected tissues: Soft tissue structures at front of knee, quadriceps.
Position: Lie on the floor on your back with your feet against a wall.
What to do: Slowly slide the foot of the involved leg down the wall until the desired degree of stretch is felt in the knee. Use the other foot to help remove the involved leg from the stretch.
How many to do: Hold each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds, and repeat 5 times.

Seated Scoots

Affected tissues: Soft tissue structures at front of knee, quadriceps.
Position: Sit all the way back in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
What to do: Scoot forward in the chair while keeping your feet firmly on the floor. You should feel a stretch along the front of your knee. Then slide back in the chair to the starting position.
How many to do: Hold for at least 20-30 seconds, and repeat 5 times.

Strengthening Exercises for the Knee

Quad Sets

Muscles: Quadriceps.
Position: Sit or lie on the floor on your back with your legs straight.
What to do: Tighten your quadriceps muscles by pushing the back of your knees down into the floor. The quadriceps muscles should
tighten. Do both legs at the same time.
How many to do: Hold for at least 5 seconds, and repeat 10 times (one set). Perform a total of 3 sets, with short 30-45 second pauses between sets.

Hamstring Sets

Muscles: Hamstrings.
Position: Lie on the floor on your back, legs straight with a small rolled-up towel under your knees.
What to do: Dig heels into floor, tightening your hamstrings.
How many to do: Hold for at least 5 seconds, and repeat 10-15 times (one set). Perform a total of 3 sets, with short 30-45 second pauses between sets.

Straight Leg Raises

Muscles: Quadriceps and hip flexors.
Position: Lie on the floor on your back with your involved knee straight. Bend your uninvolved knee.
What to do: Tighten the quadriceps muscles of the involved leg by pressing the back of the knee to the floor. Raise the involved leg 6 to 8 inches off of the floor, and then lower it without letting your foot touch the floor. Raise and lower 10 times. As you get stronger, add an ankle weight on the ankle or knee to increase the difficulty. You can make an ankle weight by putting  rice or sand in a long sock and tying it around your ankle.
How many to do: Repeat 10 times (one set). Do a total of 3 sets, with short 30-45 second pauses between sets.

Knee Extensions

Muscles: Quadriceps.
Position: Sit on a chair or the edge of a bed with your knees bent.
What to do: Slowly straighten the knee of the involved leg to the count of two, and return to the bent position on a count of four. As you get stronger, add an ankle weight on the ankle to increase the difficulty. You can make an ankle weight by putting  rice or sand in a long sock and tying it around your ankle.
How many to do: Repeat 10 times, which completes one set. Perform a total of 3 sets, with short 30-45 second pauses between sets.

Hamstring Curls

Muscles: Hamstrings.
Position: Stand on the uninvolved leg, and hold the back of a chair or a wall.
What to do: Keep the knee of the involved leg pointed toward the ground, and bend the knee by pulling the heel toward your butt. As you get stronger, you can add an ankle weight on the ankle to increase the difficulty. You can make an ankle weight by putting  rice or sand in a long sock and tying it around your ankle.
How many to do: Repeat 10 to 15 times (one set). Perform a total of 3 sets, with short 30-45 second pauses between sets.

Wall Slides

Muscles: Quadriceps, hip extensors, hamstrings.
Position: Stand with your back against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart, 1 1⁄2 to 2 feet away from wall.
What to do: Slowly slide down wall, knees bending as you move. Do not let your  knees go past your toes while bending. Slide back up the wall to the starting position. Keep your back against wall during entire exercise.
How many to do: Repeat 10 times (one set). Progress to 3 sets of 10, with short 30-45 second pauses between sets.

Step-Ups

Muscles: Lower extremity muscles.
Position: Stand in front of a step 8 to 15 inches high. A sturdy, four-legged stool is good.
What to do: Place the foot of your involved leg on the step and slowly push up, keeping the knee aligned over the foot. Then slowly lower. As you get stronger, you may progress to higher steps.
How many to do: Repeat 10 times (one set). Progress to 3 sets of 10, with short 30-45 second pauses between sets.

Follow Your Doctor’s Advice

This article and all other content (images and text) on this website are for general informational purposes only and not intended to take the place of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always talk with your doctor or other qualified health care provider about any questions you may have about your own health or any medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or put off getting professional medical advice because of anything you read on this website.

Comments

  1. Wall slides are one of my favorite forms of knee pain relief. It strengthens and relieves as you grow stronger.

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