Knee & Leg Pain

Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a licensed Physical Therapist and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I hope you enjoy my video demos of stretches & exercises for common injuries and syndromes. If you have a question, just ask. Be safe. Have fun. And I hope you feel better soon.

Piriformis Syndrome Stretches & Exercises

Piriformis syndrome is literally a pain in the butt. The sciatic nerve runs underneath the piriformis muscle. When it gets tight and irritated, it often presses on the sciatic nerve causing symptoms of sciatica. These stretches and exercises should help with piriformis syndrome.

To start off, I am going to show you some modified stretches in a chair. These are better if done on the ground, but sometimes, you don’t have an area to lie down or maybe it is too hard or painful to lie on the ground. Seated in the chair, take the leg of the side you want to stretch, and cross it over the other leg just above the knee. This will look like a figure 4 if you are looking down at your legs. You might feel the stretch already, but if you don’t, keeping your back straight, bend forward at your hips. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times. Now is the opposite knee to chest stretch. In the same starting position, now take your opposite hand, and pull your knee up and across towards the opposite shoulder. If you are very flexible, you can hug your knee. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times.

The rest of the stretches and exercises are on the ground. The first two are like the ones in the chair except your back is on the ground. Cross the leg that is hurting over into a figure 4 position. Pull the good leg up towards your chest by grabbing underneath the knee. You can use a belt or leash to help pull the leg up if your hips are not very flexible. Next, you will keep the figure 4, Grab the knee on the same side of the pain with your opposite hand, and pull it up and across your body to the opposite shoulder. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and perform 3 times.

Now you will do a clamshell exercise. Still lying on your side, bend both knees slightly forward. Try to keep your hips perpendicular to the ground with the top hip towards the ceiling. Slowly lift the top leg up and out, like a clamshell opening up, and then slowly back down. Then you are going to lie on your side with the side you want to strength on the ground. Try to get your body in a straight line, and place your elbow on the ground just below your shoulder. Come up into a side plank. Hold it for 15-20 seconds, and work your way up to a minute. If this is too hard, you can start the side plank on your knees.

Finally, you will roll over onto your stomach. Try to keep your hips down on the ground, and bend your lower leg up at your knee so your foot is towards the ceiling. Slowly lift your leg up to the ceiling. You don’t have to go high because you don’t want to roll your body to the side when lifting. Start off with 10 of these, and work your way up to 20-25.

Related Videos:

Sciatic Nerve Pain Stretches & Exercises

Hip Bursitis Stretches & Exercises

ACL Tear Stretches & Exercises

Buy the ACL Tear WorksheetThe Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) helps keep the knee stable, and prevents it from sliding forward. When you have a Torn ACL, your knee can become painful and unstable. These stretches and exercises are for a non-operative or pre-operative injury.

If you have an ACL surgery, make sure you follow your doctor and physical therapist protocols because there are several different ways to do the surgery, and they require different rehab during the recovery.

The first exercise is going to be a heel slide. Sit on the ground or your bed with the leg you want to exercise straight out in front of you. You can bend the other one up to a comfortable level or leave it all the way down. Slide your leg up keeping your foot flat on the ground. Go as far as you comfortably can, and then slide back down. Start with 10 of these, and work your way up to 20-25.

Now you will do a quad set. Put your leg you want to exercise out in front of you. You want to squeeze or activate the quad muscle by pushing your knee down into the ground. If you want to roll up a small towel to place underneath your knee for a target, you can. Also, pulling your toes up towards you will help straighten out the knee and contract the muscles. Hold this for 3-5 seconds and relax. Start with ten of these and work your way up to 20-25.

Then you will do an ankle pump. You can prop your ankle up on something if you want, but keep your heel free to move around. I am using a roll, but you can just hang your foot off of the bed or stool. You are going to pull your toes up at your ankle, and then push down like you are pushing on a pedal. This is dorsiflexion and plantarflexion. It works as a natural pump to get the fluid and inflammation out of the leg, so you can do this several times a day.

 

Next you will do a short arc quad (SAQ). For this, you will use a foam roll or a rolled up beach towel. You want something big so you have a good bend in your knee. Prop your leg over the roll with your knee on the roll. Try to keep your knee on the roll the whole time, and then lift your foot in the air until your leg is straight. If you pull your toes towards you at the end, this will help activate all the muscles in the leg. Try not to go fast because then you are only using momentum. Go slow and controlled with your movements. Start of with 10 of these, and then work up to 20-25.

Now you will do a straight leg raise (SLR). Lie down on your back, and bend one knee up. Straighten out the leg you want to exercise. You can prop up on your elbows or sit up, but this will make it harder. Pull your toes toward you to help lock out the knee. Just lift your leg to the height of your bended knee. There is no need to kick your leg way up in the air, and it actually takes away from the exercise. Make sure you are slow and controlled with this exercise. Going fast and using momentum will not be effective. If you get to 20-25 and it is easy, then you can add weights if you have them.

Finally, you will do some knee props. You can use a roll to prop up your leg, or you can sit in a chair, and have something of equal height in front of you. It can be another chair, an ottoman, etc. Place your heel on the other chair, and try to straighten out your knee as much as possible. If this is not enough stretch, you can add weights to it. A sack of potatoes works well, but sometimes it is too much weight to start with on your leg. Get a plastic bag, and add some soup or vegetable cans to it. Slide your foot through the loop of the bag, and place it just above your knee. Try to hold it there for 5-10 minutes and relax as much as you can. Over time, you can add more cans of soup.

Related Videos:

Knee Pain Stretches & Exercises

3 Best Stretches for Knee Pain

Meniscus Tear Stretches & Exercises

Buy the Meniscus Tear WorksheetThese Meniscus Tear stretches and exercises should help if you've had a meniscal tear. When you tear your meniscus, your knee becomes unstable. Often people also experience popping and clicking in the knee.

The meniscus works like a suction cup in the knee, and when it is torn, it becomes painful and sometimes feels like your knee is going to give out on you.

First we will start off with some stretches. The first stretch will be a calf stretch. With your leg out in front of you, take a strap, belt, dog leash, or big towel and wrap it around the ball of your foot. Try to keep your leg as straight as you can, and relax your foot. Pull the strap towards you until you feel a stretch in the back of your lower leg. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and do it three times. Then you will keep the strap on your foot, and lie down to do a hamstring stretch. You want your knee to be straight with this stretch, so only go as high as you can before the knee bends. Pull it up in the air towards your head, and if you pull your toes towards you as well, you will get more of a stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and do it three times.

Now for the exercises, you will start with a quad set. Put your leg you want to exercise out in front of you. You want to squeeze or activate the quad muscle by pushing your knee down into the ground. If you want to roll up a small towel to place underneath your knee for a target, you can. Also, pulling your toes up towards you will help straighten out the knee and contract the muscles. Hold this for 3-5 seconds and relax. Start with ten of these and work your way up to 20-25.

The next one you can lie down or stay in a long sit with your leg out in front of you. This will be a heel slide, and all you are going to do is slide your heel up toward your bottom as far as you comfortably can, and then slowly come back down. Start with ten of these and work your way up to 20-25.

Then you will roll over onto your stomach in the prone position. Try to keep your leg as straight as you can, but it might bend slightly. You will do a leg extension movement. Lift your leg slowly off the ground, but you don’t have to go high. Keep your hips on the ground while lifting your leg, and slowly come back down. Start off with 10, and work your way up to 20-25. If that becomes easy, then you can add light ankle weights.

Now roll onto your side for the clamshell exercise. This one is harder than it looks. You want to keep your hips straight up and down, perpendicular to the floor. Your hips will want to roll back, but keep them up as much as you can. Then keeping your knees together with one on top of the other, bend your knees slightly towards your body. Then lift the top leg up slightly, like a clamshell opening up. It doesn’t have to be a big movement because you want to keep your hips from moving. Start off with 10 of these, and then work your way up to 20-25.

Varicose Veins Help

Buy Varicose Veins WorksheetVaricose veins are a result of poor circulation in your legs. When the blood is not flowing properly, it pools up in the veins, and causes them to bulge out and become cord-like. General exercises can help work the blood out of your legs and back into your system.

The first exercise will be a simple straight leg raise, but with a hold at the top. Lie down on your back, and straighten out the leg you want to work. Bend the other one up for a target. Slowly lift the straight leg and hold it when it gets level to the other leg. If you can, hold it 5-10 seconds, and slowly come back down. Using gravity will help get the blood moving out of your leg as well as using the muscles as a natural pump. Start off with ten of these and work your way up to 20-25.

The next exercise will still be on your back. Bring both legs up in the air with your knees bent, like you are sitting on a bicycle. Now rotate the legs around like you are riding a bicycle. Try to do this for 30 seconds to one minute. You can also alternate sides pushing one leg out and bringing the other in, like a reverse stair stepper.

Now you will stand up. This exercise is a calf or heel raise. Use a counter or sturdy chair to hold onto if you have balance issues. Slowly lift your heels off the ground coming up on your toes, and slowly come back down. Start off with ten of these and work your way up to 20-25.

Finally, you will do a squat. Spread your feet out to about shoulder width apart. Try to keep your heels down on the ground, and stick your bottom back as you are squatting down. Don’t let your knees go past your toes. If you have balance issues, you can put a chair behind you. Start off with ten of these and work your way up to 20-25.

Related Videos:

DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) Prevention Exercises.

Hamstring Stretches for Tight or Sore Hamstrings.

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