Initial Exercises After Knee Arthroscopy

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Post Knee Arthroscopy Exercises

Picture of a man holding injured knee.
Physical therapy exercises can help after knee arthroscopy. PhotoAlto/Sandro DiCarlo Darsa/Getty Images

After undergoing knee arthroscopy - also known as a "knee scope" - it is important to begin exercising your knee immediately to restore strength and full range of motion. Initial exercises should be non-weight bearing in nature, and should focus on gentle strengthening of the muscles surrounding the knee as well as increasing joint range of motion.

As always, you should discuss starting any exercise program with your orthopedic surgeon prior to initiating it. Most physicians will approve an early rehabilitation program, however others may ask you to wait a week or so after your procedure.

Initially, you will experience some swelling and discomfort in the knee for a few days post operatively. You will most likely be given a prescription for pain medication and an anti-inflammatory drug to help alleviate these symptoms.

You should expect to feel a gentle stretch while performing your knee exercises, but you should not experience any pain. Any activity that causes significant discomfort should be stopped immediately. It is also a good idea to ice and elevate your leg after performing these exercises to decrease any increase in swelling.

The following exercises are appropriate for immediate post-arthroscopy rehabilitation. The movements should be gentle and steady. Bouncing or over-stretching should be avoided. Read on to review these four exercises.

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Exercise 1 - Quadriceps Contraction

University of Iowa Clinic

The quad set exercises is a great way to get your quadriceps muscles working after a knee scope. Here is how you do it:

Lay on your back on a flat surface. Place a rolled towel under your ankle between you and the surface. Push your ankle down into the towel roll. This will cause your knee to straighten as it raises off the surface you are laying on. Straighten your knee as much as possible and hold the position for five seconds. (Avoid any type of bouncing motion!) Relax and repeat 10 more times.

Bonus: The Short Arc Quad Exercise

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Exercise 2 - Hamstring Contraction

Your hamstring muscles help to bend your knee, and keeping them strong is improtant after knee arthroscopy. Here is how you get them moving:

Lie on your back with your knees bent in a 10 to 15 degree angle. Without moving your leg, pull your heel into the floor, as if you were trying to bend your knee, but the floor is preventing motion from happening. This will cause the hamstring muscles on the back of your thigh to contract. Hold this for five seconds. Relax and repeat 10 more times.

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Exercise 3 - Gluteal Sets

The gluteal set exercise is a great way to get your hips working  and to help keep blood moving in your legs and hips after surgery. It is a simple exercise to do - here's how:

Lie on your back with your knees bent in a 10 to 15 degree angle. Squeeze your buttock muscles together, like you are holding back flatulence. Hold for five seconds. Relax and repeat 10 more times.

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Exercise 4 - Straight Leg Raises

University of Iowa Clinics

Straight leg raising is an important exercise to do after knee surgery, as they can help improve the way your hip and knee muscles work while still protecting your knee. Here is how you do them.

Lay on your back on a flat surface. Bend the knee of your uninvolved leg (the one that wasn't operated on) to a 90-degree angle with your foot flat on the surface. Keep your involved leg straight without the knee bent. Slowly lift the involved leg six inches off the floor. (by contracting the front thigh muscles). Hold for five seconds. Slowly lower your leg to the floor. Relax and repeat 10 more times. (The knee of the raised leg should remain straight throughout this exercise. Focus on lifting by using the muscles on the front of your hip joint.)

The straight leg raise exercise can be done on your side of your stomach as well to work differnt hip muscles. The exercises can also be made more challenging by adding a cuff weight to your thigh or ankle.

After a knee scope, exercise can be your main tool to help you restore normal knee and hip range of motion and strength. This can help you regain normal walking and running ability. Check in with your doctor and physical therapist after knee arthroscopy, and then get started on knee exercises to quickly and safely get back to your normal activity level.

Edited by Brett Sears, PT.

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