For knee problems, physiotherapy involves strengthening and stretching certain joints and muscles. The goal is to improve muscle strength of the knee and reduce pain, as well as improve movement, encourage blood flow for faster healing, and restore your physical function and fitness level. Effective physical therapy will make daily activities such as walking, transferring in and out of bed, or climbing stairs easier.
Physiotherapy or physical therapy can be an individual treatment program or combined with other treatments. It is usually ordered to help you recover after certain surgeries, injuries and long-term health problems such as arthritis. It involves a combination of education, manual therapy, exercises and techniques such as water (hydrotherapy), heat, cold, electrical stimulation and ultrasound.
Strengthening the muscles that support your knee will reduce stress on your knee joint. Strong muscles in the front of your thigh (quadriceps) and back of your thigh (hamstrings) help your knee joint absorb shock. The less strain on your knee, the better the chances are for pain relief and preventing further injury. Stretching the muscles that you strengthen is an important part of preventing injury. Strengthening exercises build muscle to help support your knee, but can also tighten the muscles. Tight muscles are more prone to injury. Gentle stretching after strengthening exercise reduces muscle soreness and will keep your muscles long and flexible.
Building muscle strength takes time. As you get stronger, gradually increase the number of exercise repetitions or add weight to an exercise. You should not feel serious pain during an exercise. You might feel discomfort because you are challenging your muscles, but not pain. If an exercise hurts, stop the exercise. You should not feel serious pain after exercise. It is typical to feel stiff or a bit sore the day after you exercise. If you feel so sore that it is difficult to move, then you have overdone your exercise. Rest is the best thing for your sore muscles.
Some of the exercises recommended for knee problems are:
- Straight leg raise/lift - Lie on your back with one leg bent and the other straight. Tighten the thigh muscles in your straight leg and slowly lift it until it is about 15-30cm off the bed or floor. Hold it elevated for 3 to 5 seconds. Slowly lower your leg to the bed or floor. Repeat and switch sides.
- Step ups - Use a 15cm step or platform. Step one foot onto the platform. Lift your other foot off the floor, letting it hang loosely off the platform. Try to hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Slowly lower your hanging foot to the floor, and then bring your stepping foot down. Repeat and switch sides. Make sure that when you step up that your whole foot is on the platform. Do not lock the knee that is stepping on the platform.
- Knee squats - With the support of a chair or work surface, squat until your knee covers your big toe and stand. Repeat the exercise at least 10 times. As you get more comfortable, try to squat a little more. This exercise can also be performed as a wall squat, sliding your back down against the wall.
- Knee extensions - Sit at the edge of the chair or on the edge of the bed and gently slide and lift your operated leg forward straightening it. Hold this position for about 10 to 15 seconds and return to the initial position.
- Passive knee extension -For this exercise, you need 2 chairs placed opposite to each other. Sit on one chair and rest your leg on the other. Keep a rolled towel under your ankle and an ice pack over the knee. Aim to push the back of the knee downwards with the goal of making the knee full straight.
- Ankle pump - In this exercise, sit or lie on a flat surface with your legs stretched out and slowly move your foot forward and backward as far as possible.
- Quadriceps stretch (standing) - Hold on to a wall or the back of a chair for balance. Lift one foot and bring your heel up toward your buttocks. Grasp your ankle with your hand and pull your heel closer to your body. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. You should keep your knees close together, and stop bringing your heel closer when you feel the stretch. Do not arch or twist your back.