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Exercises for Healthy, Injured, and Post-Surgery Knees

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Exercises for Healthy, Injured, and Post-Surgery Knees

August 31, 2010

Written for Knee1 by Michelle Alford

Exercise has been shown to reduce knee pain, strengthen bones, and delay the onset of arthritis. Exercise can improve your health regardless of the current condition of your knees. Different exercises are better for healthy knees, injured knees, and knees that have recently undergone surgery.

Regardless of your knee condition, always warm up for at least five minutes prior to exercising. Don’t exercise your knees more than three times a week. Rest a day between exercise sessions. Your muscles need time to heal after exercising.

Healthy knees

Always start off simple when beginning a new exercise program, regardless of how healthy your knees are. Exercising too hard right away could cause knee injuries. Start with doing ten repetitions. As your knees become stronger, increase the number of repetitions.

  • Sit on a chair with your feet on the floor. Raise your toes and dig your heels into the ground while pulling your legs towards your body. Your legs shouldn’t move, but you should feel tension in your hamstrings. Hold for ten seconds. Rest and repeat. As your knee strength improves, hold for longer.
  • Stand with your back against the wall.  Lift your leg while bending your knee until your upper leg is parallel to the ground and your knee is at a 90 degree angle. Hold for ten seconds.  Rest and repeat. As your knee strength improves, hold for longer.
  • Stand with your back against a wall with your feet slightly in front of you. Slide down the wall until you are in a sitting position. Hold this position for ten seconds.  Rest and repeat. As your knee strength improves, hold for longer.

After knee injury

It’s important to be careful and take things slowly after injuring your knee. Doing too much too quickly can cause further issues. The best exercises for an injured knee are ones that don’t require much movement. Start with only ten repetitions. As your injury improves, increase the number of repetitions.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your toes off the floor and hold the position for five seconds. Rest and repeat.
  • Lie on your back with one knee bent. Lift your straight leg six inches off the ground and hold it there for five seconds. Rest and repeat. As your injury improves, try lifting your leg twelve inches and holding it there for five seconds. Rest and repeat.
  • Stand up and lift your leg forward, keeping it straight. Return it to its original position. Rest and repeat. As your injury improves, try lifting your leg backwards. Bend your knee and pull your ankle towards your buttocks. Hold for five seconds. Rest and Repeat.
  • When your knee injury has significantly improved, try stepping up on a six-inch stool. You can step forward or laterally. Step on the stool with your injured leg. Gently pull yourself up. Step back down. Rest and repeat. As your injury improves, try increasing the height of the stool.   

Do not push yourself. If your knee pain increases, stop and rest.

After knee surgery

Like after injuring your knee, it is essential to go slowly after knee surgery. Immediately stop and rest if your pain increases.

  • Sit on a chair and use your uninjured leg to help you lift your injured leg until it is straight. Hold this position for five seconds, then slowly lower your leg. Rest and repeat. As your knee improves, try lifting your injured leg without assistance from your uninjured leg.
  • Lie on your stomach with your legs straight. Bend your knee until your foot is directly above your knee. Use your uninjured leg to help lift your injured leg. Rest and repeat. As your knee improves, try lifting your injured leg without assistance from your uninjured leg.  
  • Lie on your back with your legs straight. Slowly pull your heel towards your buttocks while bending your knee. If it starts to feel uncomfortable, stop. Slide your leg back to the starting position. Rest and repeat.

Always consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting a new exercise program after knee surgery. You don’t want to risk reinjuring your knee.

Visit the Knee1 Fitness Center for more knee execises and stretches

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Photo: Rance Costa

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