The Prone Hang Exercise to Improve Knee Extension Range of Motion

Achieve Full Knee Extension Range of Motion

Use prone hanging to increase knee extension range of motion.
The prone hang exercise is often used after knee surgery to improve extension range of motion in your knee.. Brett Sears, PT, 2013

The prone hang exercise is a simple method to use to help improve your knee extension range of motion (ROM). Knee extension refers to your knee's ability to straighten out all the way.

A common problem after knee surgery is a loss of knee ROM in both flexion (bending) and extension. Exercises to improve knee ROM can be performed daily after knee surgery. Full knee ROM can help you perform basic functional tasks like sitting in a chair, walking, and climbing and descending stairs.

Who Should Perform the Prone Hang?

You may wish to do the prone hang exercise if you have any condition that results in a loss of knee range of motion. Common problems that may result in a loss of knee extension ROM include:

Your prone hang exercise may be a part of your post-op knee rehab, or your PT may prescribe it for you to do at home.

If you have had knee surgery or injury and notice that you are unable to fully straighten your knee, you may benefit from performing the prone hang exercise. Be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting this, or any other, exercise program to ensure that it is safe for your specific condition.

Performing the Prone Hang Exercise

Performing the prone hang exercise is simple to do at home or in the physical therapy clinic.

  • Locate a bed that has at least one side with ample amount of room around it.
  • Lie on the bed on your stomach.
  • Slide down on the bed to the edge so your leg is hanging over the end. Your thigh should be supported on the bed, but your lower leg should be hanging off the bed.
  • Place a small rolled up towel underneath your thigh just above your kneecap. This helps to keep from placing too much pressure through your kneecap.
  • Remain in this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Allow gravity to pull your lower leg down towards the floor so your knee straightens out.
  • You may feel some discomfort in this position. If you feel intense knee pain, stop the exercise and contact your doctor or physical therapist. You may need to find alternative ways to improve your knee ROM.
  • You can repeat this exercise for 5 to 10 repetitions. Simply bend your knee to take some pressure off of your leg, and then return to the straight knee position once again. If you have difficulty bending your knee, you can have a friend or family member gently bend it for you.

Sometimes gravity alone is not enough to fully straighten your knee. If this is the case, you can place a 1 or 2 pound cuff weight around your lower leg or ankle to add a bit of force to the exercise. Use caution; too much weight could over-stress your knee. Add just enough weight to create a gentle stretching feeling. Your PT can help you determine the right amount of weight to add.

After performing the prone hang exercise, your knee may be a little sore. This soreness is natural, since you are stretching tissues around your knee. Applying an ice pack to your knee for 10 to 15 minutes may help alleviate some of this soreness. Again, if you feel pain in your knee, contact your doctor or physical therapist.

The prone hang exercise can be performed several times a day to work on improving your knee extension ROM. It is a simple, yet effective, method to help get your knee straight to improve your overall function related to walking, sitting and standing, and navigating stairs.

If you have had knee surgery and are experiencing a loss of ROM into extension, give the prone hang exercise a try. It may be what you need to help improve your overall knee mobility.

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