What Exercises Are Often Recommended for Knee Rehabilitation by Physical Therapists?


    What Exercises Are Often Recommended for Knee Rehabilitation by Physical Therapists?

    Physical therapists often have a go-to exercise or movement they recommend for knee rehabilitation, and we've gathered expert advice starting with the foundational role of squats to strengthen the quads. Alongside professional recommendations, we also present additional answers that encompass a variety of movements to support recovery. From the benefits of low-resistance cycling to the practicality of step-ups, discover seven key exercises that can aid in knee rehabilitation.

    • Squats Strengthen Quads for Knees
    • Calf Stretches Enhance Flexibility
    • Low-Resistance Cycling Aids Recovery
    • Aquatic Therapy Reduces Joint Load
    • Hamstring Curls for Knee Support
    • Isometric Quad Exercises Prevent Harm
    • Step-Ups Mimic Real-World Activities

    Squats Strengthen Quads for Knees

    I almost always recommend squats for knee rehabilitation. They can be adjusted to almost anyone's fitness level and done with or without equipment. They're great for targeting the quads, which are the prime movers at the knee.

    -Dr. Jasmine Marcus, PT, DPT, CSCS (link to jasminemarcus.com)

    Jasmine Marcus
    Jasmine MarcusPhysical Therapist, JasmineMarcus.com

    Calf Stretches Enhance Flexibility

    When choosing a knee rehabilitation exercise, it depends on the injury. However, if there is one exercise that I would usually recommend for my patients, it's calf stretching. The reason behind this is that it is low-impact, so it is accessible to everyone and can reduce the risk of injury.

    It helps activate the muscles, stimulate blood flow, and increase short-term range of motion and flexibility. Another benefit is that it helps with soreness since it activates the muscles. There are different ways to do it, such as stretching the leg muscles, hamstring stretches, and glute stretches, among others.

    An example of a calf stretch is the heel-and-calf stretch, and the way to do it is to stand an arm's length from the wall; place the right foot behind your left foot; slowly and gently bend your left leg forward; keep the right knee straight and the right heel on the ground; hold this for 15 to 30 seconds and release; and lastly, alternate the position of the legs and repeat the stretch process.

    Kieran Sheridan

    Physiotherapist for GulfPhysio

    Kieran Sheridan
    Kieran SheridanCo-Owner and Physiotherapist, Gulf Physio

    Low-Resistance Cycling Aids Recovery

    Physical therapists often advocate the use of low-resistance cycling for those looking to rehabilitate their knees. This exercise is gentle and helps to regain motion in the knee joint without applying excessive pressure or weight. By pedaling at a steady, low resistance, the knees experience a full range of movement that contributes to their recovery.

    The smooth, cyclical motion aids in lubricating the knee joint, which can alleviate stiffness and enhance flexibility. Consider starting with brief cycling sessions and gradually increase the duration as your comfort allows.

    Aquatic Therapy Reduces Joint Load

    Aquatic therapy is frequently recommended for knee rehabilitation due to its gentle nature. The buoyancy of water significantly lessens the load on knee joints, making it an ideal environment for healing. Exercises performed in water provide resistance while reducing the impact that similar exercises would have on solid ground.

    This helps strengthen the knee and surrounding muscles without risking additional strain. Dive into a pool and give aquatic therapy a try as part of your rehabilitation regimen.

    Hamstring Curls for Knee Support

    Hamstring curls are commonly suggested by physical therapists to strengthen the back of the leg, which is crucial for knee support. This exercise targets the muscles at the back of the thigh, thereby providing a stable backing for the knee joint. As these muscles become stronger, they help to protect the knee by absorbing some of the stress that walking and other activities place upon it.

    Hamstring health is vital for knee stability and can prevent further injury. Start incorporating hamstring curls into your daily routine to build stronger posterior leg muscles.

    Isometric Quad Exercises Prevent Harm

    Isometric quadriceps strengthening is a key element in the knee rehabilitation process often prescribed by professionals. The exercise involves tensing the thigh muscles without actual movement of the knee, reducing the risk of harm. Strengthening these muscles is essential because they play a pivotal role in supporting the kneecap and stabilizing the knee joint during activities.

    Increased quadriceps strength can lead to better knee function and injury prevention. If knee health is your aim, consider adding isometric quadriceps exercises to your strengthening program.

    Step-Ups Mimic Real-World Activities

    Step-ups are frequently recommended as they simulate day-to-day activities that require controlled weight-bearing on the knee. By stepping onto a raised platform, you're mimicking actions such as climbing stairs, which is beneficial for real-world knee function. This exercise allows for progressive loading, meaning you can adjust the height of the step as your knee grows stronger and more capable.

    Moreover, step-ups target a range of muscles in the lower body, contributing to overall knee joint stability. Introduce step-ups into your daily exercise to methodically improve your knee's ability to bear weight.