Knee Mobility Exercises

General knee mobility exercises following injury. These exercises are often done as soon as possible after injury if the pain will allow. The aim is to restore range of motion without putting any damaged tissues under stress. The exact exercises and how quickly you progress through will depend on the type and severity of the injury.

Active mobility exercises where the athlete physically attempts to move the joint through a range of motion are often the first step.

 

Heel Slides

This is a knee mobility exercise to increase the range of knee flexion or bend at the joint. It is suitable for early stage rehabilitation after more severe injuries and surgery where the range of movement of the joint is limited.

Technique:

  • The athlete lies on their back on a hard surface.
  • The heel is slowly moved up towards the buttocks, as far as is comfortable (socks can be worn to ensure that the foot slides).
  • After a minute or so, a further movement may be possible.
  • A towel or strap wrapped around the ankle can be used to help in the very early stages.

 

Assisted knee flexion

This exercise helps to increase the range of knee flexion available at the joint. It is designed for the early stages of rehabilitation after a knee injury or surgery.

Technique:

  • The athlete uses the other leg to gently push back on the lower leg, increasing knee flexion as far as possible.

 

Prolonged knee flexion

This exercise is used to increase knee flexion. Sometimes after a knee or thigh injury or after surgery in this area, it is not possible to fully bend the knee. This exercise can be used in the early stages of rehabilitation to help regain full movement.

Technique:

  • The athlete is seated, with padding on the lower leg and a strap around the lower leg, wrapped around the back of the chair and the end held in the hands.
  • The athlete pulls the strap until a tight feeling is felt on the knee/thigh. This should not be painful.
  • This position is held for a few minutes before attempting to increase the stretch.

Muscles worked:

  • This exercise is used to increase knee flexion motion.

 

Prolonged knee extension

This exercise is used to help regain full knee extension. Often after a severe knee injury or after surgery, it is not possible to fully straighten the knee. It is important to regain this full extension as soon as possible.

Technique:

  • To help regain full knee extension, the athlete may sit with the foot rested and the knee unsupported.
  • Gravity will help encourage extension, or a weight can be placed just above the knee to add extra force.
  • The position is held for a few minutes as long as it isn’t painful.

Muscles worked:

  • This knee exercise is designed to increase knee extension motion.

 

Hip Extension on all fours

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Early stage knee exercises

These exercises are done as soon as pain allows. In some cases within a day or so of injury after the acute stage.

Mid stage knee exercises

During the mid-stage exercises progress to gentle strengthening, gradually increasing the load on the joint and through the recovering tissues. Balance and proprioception training usually begins.