What are the Different Types of Knee Rehab?

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  • Written By: Elizabeth Norberg
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 23 December 2019
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Knee injuries generally fall into a broad range of severity; subsequently, each knee rehab program will differ accordingly. The program may be a simple matter of ice and rest, or it could be a long, involved, and often quite painful process. Speed of recovery and the rate of progression are also greatly influenced by a person's strength before the surgery, weight, age, and pain tolerance. All knee rehab typically should be overseen by a physician, occupational therapist, and a physical therapist that have access to a full medical history and are familiar with the original injury.

It usually is critical for any knee rehab program to strengthen the muscles of the leg for stability in the joint and stretch the muscles to increase the range of motion. Programs also typically include balancing exercises that help strengthen the knee and prevent future injury. Some physicians recommend that a patient keep a journal to track improvements so that activities can be increased or the program modified to best suit the patient's needs.


For sprains and strains, knee rehab usually involves rest and keeping pressure off the knee until it is completely recovered. These injuries generally should be iced to reduce swelling. Physicians typically recommend that a patient use compression bandages or knee braces in the future to help minimize pressure on the knee and prevent the injury from becoming agitated or worse. For fractures or a total dislocation, a patient generally needs to keep body weight off the injured knee. The knee may be put into a splint, and will probably require a patient to meet with a professional for a rehabilitation program.

Knee rehab typically is an essential part of the knee replacement surgery. Without an active and enthusiastic rehabilitation, the knee replacement can be far less effective than its potential. After the surgical procedure, the focus is typically on movement of the joint and ensuring that a patient can walk. Activities such as ankle pumps, leg lifts, and heel slides usually begin as soon as the day after the surgery is performed.

Other non-joint related knee injuries may involve ligaments, tendons, or muscle tears, as well. These injuries usually require surgery to repair the damage, so it is important for a patient to see a doctor. Most anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries are rehabilitated by slowly strengthening the surrounding muscles and improving the range of motion of the patient's leg. Squats and balance exercises usually are added on top of heel slides and motion stretches as the patient gains strength.



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