Mobility exercises which may be used in the early stages of a rehab program for a medial or lateral cartilage meniscus injury or knee joint injury.
Flexion / Extension Exercises
This exercises is extremely important not only to improve the mobility of the injured knee but it will also help maintain the strength of the quadriceps and hamstrings in the early stages of rehabilitation. These movements can also help to decrease the swelling surrounding the knee.
- Sit on the edge of a bench or chair. In the early stages it is best to sit on a seat that is high enough to allow the feet not to come in contact with the ground. This makes the exercise easier.
- Slowly bend (flex) and straighten (extend) the knee within the limits of pain.
- Aim for 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions 3 times a day as pain allows.
Progress this exercise to holding the leg in place at the end of possible range, both in flexion and extension. This will aid in strengthening the muscles.
This exercise mainly targets the hamstring muscles which are the main flexors of the knee. It will also help to stretch the quadriceps at the front of the thigh.
- Lie face down and flex the injured knee as far as possible.
- Repeat this exercises 10 times.
- Hold the knee at the end of range for 5-10 seconds, as exercise becomes easier
- Repeat 1 to 3 times a day.
This exercise aids in promoting mobility in both the hamstrings and the quadriceps. It also helps to mobilize the hip flexor muscles (iliopsoas and rectus femoris) and the hip joint itself. This movement can be made easier by decreasing the resistance between the foot and floor. Hence, in the early stages of recovery this may be done by wearing a thick sock and sliding the foot along a polished floor as oppose to a carpet.
- Lie on your back, bend one knee whilst sliding the foot firmly on the ground.
- Slide your heel up as far as possible towards your buttocks.
- In the early phases of recovery it may only be possible to attain as little as 30 degrees flexion. This range of movement, with repetitions, should increase over time.
- Repeat 10 to 20 times daily, aiming to increase the range of movement as pain allows
If there is insufficient muscle strength to bend the knee, the exercise may be made easier by using a towel around the ankle to facilitate flexion (as shown).
Light, low resistance exercises such as swimming and light exercise bike training can also aid to increase range of mobility. However these are normally only advised when satisfactory range of movement has been achieved.
The aim of stretching is to increase the range of movement at a joint by increasing the flexibility of the soft tissue structures that surround it i.e. muscles, ligaments and the joint capsule. Stretching exercises are extremely beneficial in rehabilitation but should normally be accompanied by a strengthening program so that instability does not develop around the joint. A number of stretching exercises can be used following injury to the medial meniscus. As always these should only be carried out as pain allows.
Leg Extension using Towel Roll
This stretch aids in getting the last few degrees of knee extension in the latter stages of the rehab process. It uses the natural weight of the leg to stretch the structures at the back of the knee
- Roll a medium sized towel in a ball tie with a ribbon or string so that it keeps its shape
- Place on a footstool in front of your chair
- When sitting, rest the heel of the affected leg on the towel so that the leg is as straight as possible
- If it can be tolerated allow leg to remain straightened
- Leave for 10-15 minutes. Repeat every hour.
This stretch increases flexibility not only in the calf muscles but also in the hamstrings.
- Place the injured leg one pace behind the other.
- Keep the knee straight and the heel on the floor as you lean forwards (stand in front of a wall for balance!)
- A stretch should be felt at the back of the behind leg
- Hold for 10 seconds and release slowly
- Repeat 3 times daily
Also perform this stretch with the knee slightly bent.
This will relax the gastrocnemius muscle (which is stretched when the knee is straight) and instead allow the focus of the stretch to be on the soleus muscle.