Exercise is an important part of rehabilitation after a knee injury or knee surgery, and it can also help to reduce knee pain due to osteoarthritis and other conditions that cause painful knee joints. If you are being treated for a knee injury or knee pain, it may be helpful to talk to a physical therapist, who can show you how to safely and effectively exercise your knee to improve stability, flexibility and strength of the joint. This article will outline some of the common knee exercises that can be used to reduce pain in the knee joint.
It is important to warm up before exercising. In the case of knee exercises, walking for a few minutes before exercising helps to warm up the muscles and reduce the chance that a muscle will be pulled during the exercise routine. Performing stretching exercises can also help warm up the muscles. To stretch the quadriceps muscles, the muscles in the front of the thigh, hang onto a wall or chair for balance and stand on one leg, holding your ankle with your other hand. Gently bring your heel upwards until you can feel the muscles in the front of your thigh stretch, and hold this pose for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. To stretch the hamstring muscles, the muscles in the back of the thigh, sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Place the palms of your hands on the floor and bring them forward until you can feel the muscles in the back of your thigh stretch, then hold this pose for 30 seconds.
It is important to start exercising slowly after a knee injury. Do not overdo it, but it is good to start as soon as you can and slowly work your way up. Exercises commonly used for knee pain include the single-leg dip, straight-leg lift, wall squat, hamstring curls, step-ups and knee stabilization exercises. The single-leg dip is an exercise that exercises the thigh muscles and the buttocks. This exercise is performed using two chairs. The straight-leg lift exercises the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh, and it is performed while lying down. One leg is bent, and the other is kept straight and lifted off of the ground. The wall squat is a squatting motion that uses the wall for support, and the quadriceps muscles are the muscles that are exercised during the wall squat. Hamstring curls exercise the hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh. In this exercise, one leg is kept straight and the heel of the other is brought up towards the buttocks and held for several seconds. Step-ups exercise the knee joint and all of the thigh muscles, along with the hips and buttocks. For step-ups, a six inch tall stool should be used. This exercise mimics stair-climbing, which is a great exercise for knees. Knee stabilization exercises are used to help strengthen and stabilize the knee joint. These exercises are performed standing, using a chair for balance, and they are difficult to describe without diagrams to explain the movements used. All of these exercises are described and illustrated here: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00564.
Similar exercises are recommended for knees affected by osteoarthritis. A slideshow with description of additional knee exercises can be found here: http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/joint-injections-9/slideshow-knee-exercises. Additional exercises suggested include calf stretches, heel raises, pillow squeeze and side leg raises.
It may seem counter-intuitive that post-surgery knee exercises are started as soon as the patient can do them, because they are most difficult to do right after surgery. However, it has been shown that certain types of exercise after surgery actually reduce recovery time and have an affect on the amount of pain that is experienced after a knee surgery. Some knee exercises can be done while the patient is still in the recovery room in the hospital. These exercises include straight leg raises, knee bends in bed or while sitting, knee straightening exercises and ankle pumps. A patient will start to walk using crutches or a walker, and then eventually be able to walk without support. A patient will learn how to climb stairs until they are able to do so the way they could before knee surgery. There are also exercises done after a patient has recovered from surgery to try to increase the strength and flexibility of the knee as much as possible. More information about post-surgery knee exercises can be found here: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00301.