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.

Total Knee Replacement Exercises

A total knee replacement is one of those surgeries where you just have to push through the pain after your surgery. The first 2 weeks are very important to get as much motion as you can because once the scar tissue sets in, you'll have a hard time getting the motion back.

For the first exercise, you will sit in a chair. Start with your leg out in a comfortable position slightly in front of you. Keep your heel down on the ground, and slowly slide it back towards the chair. You can use a towel under your foot if you need to slide easier. Your heel will try to come up, but really try to keep it down. Do about 10 of these and then take a break. Then you can add a foot pump to the exercise. Again slide your heel back some, and then pump your toes up and down. This will put a little more bend in your knee, and then after about five pumps, slide it back more. Repeat this as far back as you can.

The next exercise will help you get extension in your knee, or straighten it out. Using another chair or coffee table, prop your leg up so your leg is in alignment with your hips. Your knee might not be straight yet. This is usually the hardest one to get back. With your leg propped up, push downward on your thigh just above your knee. So don’t press on your knee joint, but slightly above. Try to hold it for 5-10 seconds. If you are having a really hard time with the motion, you can put a plastic bag right above your knee and put soup or vegetable cans in the bag for constant pressure.

Now you are going to get on the ground. If you can’t get up off the ground yet, you can do these in your bed. You are going to do a heel slide again, but lying down this time. Prop up your good knee and put your surgery knee straight out. Still keeping your heel down when you slide, pull it towards your body as far as you can, and then slide back down. You can do about 10 of these.  If you want to get a better stretch, then you can use a strap, dog leash, or belt to get some extra bend in the knee. Place the strap on your shin and make sure it won’t slide off. Then use the strap to pull your knee towards you while you are doing the heel slide.

The last stretch is a quad set. This time you want to straighten out your knee again. While lying down, you are going to try to push your knee down into the ground as hard as you can. To do this, you are activating your quad muscle. If you need a target for your knee, roll up a towel and place it under your knee. While you are squeezing your quad muscle to push the knee down, you can also pull your toes up towards you to activate the calf muscle. Try to told these for 5- 10 seconds and do 10 of them.

Posterior Shin Splints Stretches & Exercises

Shin splints can be very painful, and they can literally stop you in your tracks. It is important to get imaging done if you have persistent pain because often stress fractures present like shin splints.

You can have anterior or posterior shin splints. Anterior shin splints are a little higher up and on the outside of the leg. Here are some stretches and exercises for Anterior Shin Splints.

Posterior shin splints are lower to the ankle and on the inside of the leg. If you are having pain, you might want to stretch both.

The first stretch is similar to a soleus stretch. So you will start off leaning against something sturdy. Put the leg you want to stretch back into a lunge position. Keeping both feet facing forward, bend your front knee, and then keeping your back heel down bend your back knee. The final step to this stretch is to bend the knee inward toward your other knee to get the posterior tibialis stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times.

The second one is an exercise as well as a stretch. You are going to place your foot behind you, and turn it outward so the big toe is on the ground. With light pressure downward, drag your foot forward. You can add pressure as you get more comfortable with it. If you want to work your anterior tibialis, you can drag the toes forward with your foot turned inward and the smaller toes on the ground.

Now you are going to get on the ground. Sitting in a tall kneel with your knees on the ground, turn your feet outward so your big toe is on the ground. This might be very uncomfortable the first few times you do it, so you don’t have to lean all the way back. Slowly bring your bottom to your feet to stretch the area. You can just do one foot, or you can do two for more pressure. If you want to stretch the anterior portion, you can turn your feet inward and sit back on your feet.

Finally, you will do a general calf stretch. With the leg you want to stretch straight out in front of you, and the other one curled in, take a strap, dog leash, or towel and wrap it around the balls of your foot. Pull your foot towards you with the strap until you feel a stretch, and hold it for 30 seconds. Do this three times. You can also turn your foot out slightly to get a better posterior stretch.

Leg & Hip Active Range of Motion Exercises

These Leg & Hip Active Range of Motion Exercises are a great way to help get back the range of motion in your legs and hips after a surgery or injury.

Start off seated in a chair with your back nice and straight. Bring your knee straight up in the air, but try not to lean back when you do this. Bring your leg back down.

Then you will do knee extensions kicking straight out. Try to get your knee as straight as you can. Pulling up your toes at the end helps lock out your knee.

Now you are going to do a heel raise by lifting your heel off the ground while keeping your toes on the ground. Next, you will do toe raises, bringing the toes off the ground with the heel on the ground.

For hip abduction, roll your knees out and bring them back in, almost like a clamshell. Finally, you will do hip adduction. If you need a target, you can put a pillow or something soft between your legs and squeeze in.

Calf Strengthening Exercises

If you have weak calf muscles, or gastrocnemius muscles, due to surgery or an injury (or if you just have chicken legs like me!), then these calf exercises should help make them stronger.

The first exercise is a heel raise off the ground. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, come up on your toes as high as you can. Try not to lean forward, but bring your body straight up and down. Push off as much as you can so your heel leaves the ground. If that is easy, then you can do one at a time. Again, try not to lean forward or pull yourself up. If you can't go up without using your arms, then you are not quite ready for one foot at a time.

If that gets pretty easy, then you can find a step to get a longer range of motion in your exercise. Put the balls of your feet on the edge of the step, but make sure you are not going to slip off. Drop your heels down as far as they will go without slipping off, and then push up as far as you can upwards. Go slow with this motion up and down for control. Again, try to go straight up and down. If you are leaning forward or pulling yourself up, you are not quite ready for the step. Once you master the control, you can go faster, but try not to use momentum, make your muscles do the work. If that becomes easy, then you can do this with one foot.

Finally, you can walk up on your toes for a dynamic movement exercise. Try to stay up on your toes the whole time you are walking. If you can't keep your heels off the ground, then you are not quite ready for it.

 

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