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Knee Sprain Exercises
What you need to know about a knee sprain:
A knee sprain occurs when one or more ligaments in your knee are suddenly stretched or torn. Ligaments are tissues that hold bones together. Ligaments support the knee and keep the joint and bones in the correct position. Treatment and recovery time depend on the type and severity of the knee sprain. Before you start doing knee exercises, follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for decreasing swelling and pain. Then, do knee stretches and strengthening exercises as directed.
Decrease pain and swelling:
- Apply ice to your knee for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
- Apply compression to your knee as directed. You may need to wear an elastic bandage. This helps keep your injured knee from moving too much while it heals. You can loosen or tighten the elastic bandage to make it comfortable. It should be tight enough for you to feel support. It should not be so tight that it causes your toes to be numb or tingly. If you are wearing an elastic bandage, take it off and rewrap it once a day.
- Elevate your knee above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably. Do not put pillows directly behind your knee.
What you need to know about knee exercises:
Knee exercises help strengthen the muscles around your knee. Strong muscles can help reduce pain and decrease your risk of future injury. Knee exercises also help you heal after an injury or surgery.
- Start slow. These are beginning exercises. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to see a physical therapist for more advanced exercises. As you get stronger, you may be able to do more sets of each exercise or add weights.
- Stop if you feel pain. It is normal to feel some discomfort at first. Regular exercise will help decrease your discomfort over time.
- Do the exercises on both legs. Do this so both knees remain strong.
- Warm up before you do knee exercises. Walk or ride a stationary bike for 5 or 10 minutes to warm your muscles.
How to perform knee stretches safely:
Always stretch before you do strengthening exercises. Do these stretching exercises again after you do the strengthening exercises. Do these stretches 4 or 5 days a week, or as directed.
- Heel slides: Sit or lie on the floor and put your legs out straight in front of you. Bend your knee so your foot is flat on the floor. Slowly slide your heel toward your buttocks. Keep your foot on the floor. You can also use a towel to help bring your foot back. Slowly slide your foot back to the starting position.
- Standing calf stretch: Face a wall and place both palms flat on the wall, or hold the back of a chair for balance. Keep a slight bend in your knees. Take a big step backward with one leg. Keep your other leg directly under you. Keep both heels flat and press your hips forward. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then relax for 30 seconds. Switch legs. Repeat 2 or 3 times on each leg.
- Standing quadriceps stretch: Stand and place one hand against a wall or hold the back of a chair for balance. With your weight on one leg, bend your other leg and grab your ankle. Bring your heel toward your buttocks. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch legs. Repeat 2 or 3 times on each leg.
- Sitting hamstring stretch: Sit with both legs straight in front of you. Do not point or flex your toes. Place your palms on the floor and slide your hands forward until you feel the stretch. Do not round your back. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
How to perform knee strengthening exercises safely:
Do these exercises 4 or 5 days a week, or as directed.
- Standing half squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean your back against a wall or hold the back of a chair for balance, if needed. Slowly sit down about 10 inches, as if you are going to sit in a chair. Your body weight should be mostly over your heels. Hold the squat for 5 seconds, then rise to a standing position. Do 3 sets of 10 squats to strengthen your buttocks and thighs.
- Standing hamstring curls: Face a wall and place both palms flat on the wall, or hold the back of a chair for balance. With your weight on one leg, lift your other foot as close to your buttocks as you can. Hold for 5 seconds and then lower your leg. Do 2 sets of 10 curls on each leg. This exercise strengthens the muscles in the back of your thigh.
- Standing calf raises: Face a wall and place both palms flat on the wall, or hold the back of a chair for balance. Stand up straight, and do not lean. Place all your weight on one leg by lifting the other foot off the floor. Raise the heel of the foot that is on the floor as high as you can and then lower it. Do 2 sets of 10 calf raises on each leg to strengthen your calf muscles.
- Straight leg lifts (on your stomach): Lie on your stomach with straight legs. Fold your arms in front of you and rest your head in your arms. Tighten your leg muscles and raise one leg as high as you can. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower your leg. Do 2 sets of 10 lifts on each leg to strengthen your buttocks.
- Straight leg lifts (on your back): Lie on a flat, firm surface. Bend your left leg until your foot is flat on the floor. Raise your right leg several inches off the floor and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Lower your leg slowly. Repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times and then repeat on your other leg.
- Sitting leg lifts: Sit in a chair. Slowly straighten and raise one leg. Squeeze your thigh muscles and hold for 5 seconds. Relax and return your foot to the floor. Do 2 sets of 10 lifts on each leg. This helps strengthen the muscles in the front of your thigh.
- Step ups: Use a 6-inch stool, step, or other platform to do this exercise. Place one foot on top of the platform. Lift your other foot off the floor and let it hang loosely. Stay in that position for 3 to 5 seconds. Then, slowly lower your foot to the floor. Lower your other foot off the platform surface and onto the floor. Repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times and then repeat on your other leg.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have new pain or your pain becomes worse.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
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