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Knee Rehabilitation Low Demand

Welcome to our Knee Rehabilitation-Low Demand video series. This program is designed for patients returning to sedentary/light work and recreational activity after injury or surgery. These videos should not be used as a substitute for regular physical therapy visits and guidance from your physician.

Click here to download a pdf version of the Knee Rehabilitation – Low Demand Guide

PHASE I – PREVENT DECONDITIONING AND STIFFNESS

GOALS: Activate the muscles; restore range of motion.

KEY POINTS:

  • Ice and elevate the leg to minimize pain and swelling after injury or surgery.
  • Ice for 15 minutes three times daily for first 3 days.
  • Elevate the leg above the level of your heart when sedentary.
  • Regain full extension [straightening] of the knee ASAP – see exercise 1.  Do as often as possible until full motion is achieved.
  • Balance exercises help regain postural stability – start with eyes open; progress to eyes closed.
  • Perform exercises two times daily; do 1-2 sets of 12-15 repetitions for each exercise.

PHASE 2 – EARLY STRENGTHENING

GOALS: Begin muscle re-conditioning.

KEY POINTS:

  • Exercises may need to be modified if painful.
  • Conduct strengthening exercises every day or every other day to prevent irritation.
  • Perform 1-2 sets of 12-15 repetitions each.
  • Ice for 10-15 minutes following exercise to limit inflammation.
  • Start stationary bike with light resistance as soon as flexion is adequate to complete pedal rotation.
  • Typically this phase would be done during weeks 2-6 following knee arthroscopy.

PHASE 3 – ADVANCED STRENGTHENING

GOAL: Strengthen hip, quad, hamstring and calf muscles to restore functional stability to the knee.

KEY POINTS:

  • Conduct exercises 3-4 times per week with increasing intensity.
  • Exercises may be performed in the gym on machines.
  • Stretching exercises are important to alleviate excessive strain on the knee, which can cause pain.
  • Avoid knee extension machine.
  • Cross-train to avoid irritation (e.g., bike, elliptical, treadmill, walking on alternate days).
  • Typically, this phase is performed week 6 and beyond following knee arthroscopy.

PHASE 4 – RETURN TO FULL ACTIVITY

GOAL: Maximize functional recovery; prevent future knee problems; return to full activity.

KEY POINTS:

  • Continue all Phase 3 exercises 3-4 times per week indefinitely to maximize functional recovery and prevent future knee problems.
  • Perform stretching exercises before and after strengthening. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, then relax for 15 seconds; repeat 5 times.
  • Perform each strengthening exercise in two sets for 12 repetitions each set.
  • Perform two sets of 12 reps for each strengthening exercise.
  • Continue icing after exercise/activity. 
  • NSAIDs and occasionally a cortisone injection can be effective in alleviating persistent inflammation if it occurs.

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