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.

Improving Knee Extension (Knee Straightening)

Many times after a knee surgery, or even with knee osteoarthritis, people have a hard time getting their knee extension back. Being able to straighten out your knee is very important in many things we do, especially walking.

To start off, you can try chair props. 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.

If you need more of a stretch, you can lie down on your stomach on the couch or your bed. Make sure your knee is hanging off the edge to help you get more of a stretch and take the pressure off your knee. Sometimes you can roll up a towel and place it under your thigh for comfort, and more of a stretch. If this is not enough stretch, you can add weights to it. 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 at your ankle. 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.


Knee Bursitis Stretches & Exercises

I often hear patients tell me they have that bursa. Well everyone has bursas throughout their bodies. A bursa is basically a small fluid filled sac that protects our tendons from rubbing on the bones. When the bursa becomes inflamed, it swells up, and can become very painful. This is called bursitis. The most common spots for this are the hips, knees, and shoulders. Today I am going to show you some simple stretches and exercises to help with knee bursitis.

The main muscles around the knee are the calf muscles, the quad muscles, and the hamstring muscles. The first stretch is going to be a calf stretch. You can use a long towel like a beach towel and roll it up to help with the stretch. Make sure you put it just at the ball of your foot. Not too low and not too high. Keep your leg nice and straight (don't bend the knee), and pull the towel towards you until you feel a stretch. This shouldn't be painful, just tension. Hold for 30 seconds and do it 3 times.  

The next stretch is going to be for the hamstrings. You can get a combination stretch with this for your hamstrings and your calf muscles. Keep the towel at the ball of your foot, and lie down on the ground. Keeping your leg straight without bending your knee, pull your leg straight upward and pull your toes towards you to get the calf as well. Hold for 30 seconds and do this 3 times.

Now you are going to stretch your quad muscle. You can do this a few different ways. If you don't have a belt or strap close by, you can lie on your side and grab your ankle behind you. Gently pull your foot/ankle towards your bottom. If your thigh is coming forward past your hips, then you are not going to get a good stretch. Try to keep your thigh in alignment with your hips or even slightly behind you. Hold for 30 seconds and do it 3 times. You can use a towel or belt to wrap around your ankle if you are really tight and can't grab your ankle with your hand.

It's time for some strengthening exercises now. The first strengthening exercise is a quad set. I like to use a towel or roll as a target, but you don't have to use anything. Take the towel, roll it up, and place it just under your knee. Push your knee downward into the roll like you are trying to straighten your knee as much as you can. Pulling your toes up towards you helps straighten your knee. Hold this for 3-5 seconds and do 10-15 of them, and do 2-3 sets.

Next is a straight leg raise (SLR). Lie down on your back, and bend one knee up. Straighten out the leg you want to exercise. 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 are going to turn onto your side. This is to strengthen your hip abductors. The leg you want to work is going to be on top, and the bottom leg can be slightly bent for comfort. You want to use the same technique where you keep your leg straight, and you pull your toes toward you to lock out the knee. Try to keep your leg in a straight line with your body keeping your hip up and perpendicular with the ground. Again, use controlled movements, and you don't have to kick your leg way up in the air. If you get to 20-25 and it is easy, then you can add weights if you have them.


Osgood-Schlatter's Disease / Syndrome Stretches & Exercises

Osgood-Schlatter's disease/syndrome is basically an irritation of your patellar tendon where it attaches to the tibial tuberosity. This often happens in children while they are still growing, but it can also happen at any age. Many times a bump will form over the tibial tuberosity and be very painful. It is really important to keep all the muscles around the knee stretched and strong. This video will show you some stretches and exercises to help keep you loose and pain free.

There are three main muscle groups that cross the knee, and it is important to cover each of these.  The first stretch will be on your stomach in prone.  This will stretch your quadriceps muscle.  Take a belt or dog leash and wrap around your foot/ankle.  Take the strap and gently pull your foot towards your buttocks until you feel a stretch.  Hold for 30 seconds and do it 3 times. 

The second stretch is for your calf muscle, or gastrocnemius muscle.  Keep your leg straight, and now take the belt or leash and place it on the ball of your foot.  Relax your leg and then pull your foot towards you.  Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, 3 times. 

The third and last stretch is for the hamstrings. Keep the belt around your foot, and lie down. Try to keep your knee and leg straight, and pull the belt as far as you can towards you until you feel a good stretch.

The strengthening exercise is going to be a simple straight leg raise (SLR).  You want to squeeze your muscles tight to lock out the knee and pull your toes towards your head to keep the whole leg straight. This will work your hip flexor muscles when you lift your leg off the ground.  Use slow controlled movements to make sure you are using the muscles and not momentum.  Start off with ten, and work your way up. You can check out my hip strengthening video to strengthen the other directions.


Knee Isometric / Knee Setting Exercises

Sometimes you are not ready to perform strengthening exercises with full movements because you don't have enough strength yet, or because it hurts too much. This video will show you isometric or setting exercises for your knee that will help strengthen your muscles before you are eady for big movement exercises.

The first exercises are quad sets. Sit in long sitting with your legs straight out in front of you. If you want, put a rolled towel underneath your knee to give yourself a target. Then squeeze your knee down into the roll towards the ground. Hold it for 3 seconds, and do ten of them. Next is a hamstring set. Bend up your knees in a hooklying position. Push your heel down into the ground and hold it for 3 seconds, do this 10 times.

The next two are hip adductor and abductor isometric exercises. First take a belt and wrap it around your thighs just above your knees. Push outwards toward the belt like your legs are opening up like a clamshell. Hold for 3 seconds, and repeat 10 times. Then take a ball or pillow folded in half, and put it between your knees. Squeeze into the ball and hold for 3 seconds, repeat 10 times.



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