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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.