Knee Rehabilitation Exercises

All stretching exercises should be performed on a daily basis. All exercise sessions should be relatively pain free. If you are experiencing considerable discomfort, rest for a day before resuming exercises. Consider resuming less vigorously. Notify your doctor if considerable discomfort persists. Incorporating your exercise sessions into daily activities, such as doing your stretching exercises while you are talking on the phone, will help you complete your exercises without taking time out of your schedule. Please perform stretches on both sides of the body.

Points to Remember

  • Exercises should be done in a pain-free manner
  • The proper tension or weight for strengthening is that which causes a mild “muscle burn” at the end of a set of 20 repetitions
  • Strengthening exercises can be done twice a day
  • Ankle weights can be substituted for rubber tubing
  • Stretching exercises are most effective when done frequently
  • Apply heat to the affected leg for 15 minutes before exercising
  • Ice for 15 minutes following exercise

There are certain activities that may cause your condition to become worse. Try to avoid deep knee bends, excessive stair climbing, or prolonged sitting with bent knees. Preferred aerobic activities include walking, swimming, Nordic Trac, and stationary cycling.

You may start to pedal on a stationary bicycle when you are able to bend your knee at 90 degrees and your doctor approves the activity.

Sitting Extension

While sitting on a chair, place the affected leg on opposite table or another parallel flat surface and push on the affected thigh. Try to push the knee out straight. Alternatively, hang a weight from the knee. Hold 15 – 20 minutes.


While sitting in a chair, cross your affected leg over the unaffected leg at your ankles. Use the unaffected leg to push or extend the affected leg. This exercise can also be done against the wall while you are lying on the floor.


While lying on the floor, place both legs against the wall. Place the unaffected leg over the affected leg. Bend your unaffected leg, forcing your affected leg to flex. Hold the stretch, try to then relax and go a little further. This can also be done sitting in a chair for support.

While sitting, place the heel of the affected leg on a towel. Pull the towel towards you, forcing your knee to bend.

Calf Stretch

Lean against a wall with your hands and arms extended. Extend the affected leg behind you with the knee locked. Slowly lean towards the wall until you feel a gentle stretch in your calf muscle.

Hamstring Wall Stretch

While lying on the floor with the affected leg on the wall, and your other leg through a doorway, scoot your buttocks toward the wall until a gentle stretch is felt in the back of the affected thigh.

Hamstring Stretch

Place your affected leg on a table or chair. Keeping the knee, back, and neck straight, slowly lean forward to bring hand toward ankle. You should feel slight tightness in the back of the leg. Do Not Bounce.

Quad Stretch

While standing, bend your affected leg at the knee. Grasp your foot/ankle with your hand on the same side. Pull the affected foot/ankle up and backward until a gentle stretch is felt in the front of the thigh.

Iliotibial Band

Sit with your unaffected leg flat on the floor. Cross the affected leg over your other leg. Using the opposite (unaffected side) elbow, apply a force on the outside of your affected knee pushing toward the unaffected side until a gentle stretch is felt over the affected hip side.

Another way to stretch the iliotibial band is standing. Stand approximately three feet from a wall with the affected hip toward the wall. Bring the affected leg behind your other leg and bend the front leg slightly at the knee. Then lean in towards the wall. The affected leg is behind you and is stretched as you lean into the wall. A gentle stretch should be felt over the outside of the hip and thigh.

Short Arc Leg Extensions

While seated, place a pillow or large rolled towel under the affected leg. Allow the leg to bend to about 30 degrees. Slowly extend leg upward until straight. You may add ankle weights to increase resistance.

Prone Leg Extensions

While lying on your stomach, allow the affected knee to touch the ground. Extend your leg straight while trying to push the back of your knee straight up. You can do this exercise over the side of a bed to get better extension.

Supine Leg Raises

While lying on your back with your affected leg extended, turn your foot inward and point your toes upward. Slowly lift leg straight up 10-12 inches, and then slowly lower it to starting position.

Side Lying Leg Raises

While lying on your side, keep the affected leg extended and the other knee bent in front of your affected leg for support. Turn the foot on the affected leg inward and point the toes straight ahead. Slowly lift the affected leg straight up 10 to 12 inches, and then slowly lower it to starting position.

Tighten Muscle

Sit on the floor with legs extended. Tighten the muscle in your upper leg so it feels like the back of your knee is touching the floor. Hold, then relax and repeat.

Hurdler Stretch

Sit on the floor with unaffected leg bent away from your body, and the affected leg extending straight. Slowly reach toward the toes on your affected side, keeping your back straight.

Leg Raise

Lie on a flat surface on your stomach so the surface is just at your knees. Slowly raise your foot on the affected side, so your leg is bent at a 90 degree angle at the knee. Use weights for added resistance as prescribed.

Leg Flat

Lie on a flat surface, such as a bed, on your stomach so that the edge of the bed is just above your knee. Let your leg from the knee down hang off of the edge. In this manner, the weight of your leg will pull the leg out straight. Add ankle weights to help obtain full extension. When the height of the heels is equal, you have full extension of the knee.

Resistance with Rubber Tubing

These are the same as straight leg raises, however, you will perform these exercises in the standing position using rubber tubing for resistance.

Hip Flexion

Tie one end of the rubber tubing to your affected foot or ankle, and tie the other end to a table leg directly behind you. Step far enough away from the table to feel a slight pull on the tubing. Turn affected foot inward with toes pointed upward. Slowly extend the knee (with knee locked in extension) forward. Hold and then slowly return to starting position.


Tie one end of the rubber tubing to your affected foot or ankle and tie the other end to a table leg. Step to the side of the table with your affected leg closest to the table leg. Give yourself enough distance for resistance to be felt in the tubing. Keeping your affected leg extended, cross it over the unaffected leg and slowly return to the starting position. Remember to keep the foot turned inward and toes pointed downward.


Tie one end of the rubber tubing to your affected foot or ankle and tie the other end to a table leg. Step to the side of the table, with your affected leg farthest away from the table. Extend your affected leg to the side as far as you can and slowly return to the starting position. Keep your foot turned inward and your toes pointed upward.

Leg Extension

While sitting on a table with your feet flat on the floor, tie one end of the rubber tubing to your affected foot or ankle and the other end to the table leg below you. Extend your affected leg forward as far as you can, then slowly return to the starting position. If this hurts, go only 10 to 30 degrees and do not fully extend the leg.


While standing and facing the table, tie one end of the rubber tubing to your affected foot or ankle and the other end to the table leg. Bend your affected leg against the resistance to 90 degrees and slowly return to starting position.

Wall Squats

Stand on the rubber tubing with feet shoulder-width apart, and hold on to the ends of the tubing with your hands. Keeping your back straight and up against the wall, squat down until there is approximately a 30 to 40 degree bend in your knees. Use the rubber tubing for resistance. Slowly rise to an upright position, keeping your back straight.

For information about knee rehabilitation, please call (918) 494-AOOK (2665).