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Physical Therapy Exercises for Sprained Knee Ligaments

Knee ligaments help stabilize your knee joint during activities, but when they become sprained or torn, your knee becomes unstable. Physical therapy exercises strengthening muscles around your knee, improve joint stability and allow you to return to normal activities. Consult your physician or physical therapist before starting new exercises.

Quadriceps and Hip Flexors

Quadriceps sets and straight leg raises are two common exercises that strengthen your quadriceps and hip flexor muscles. Both start in a seated position with your injured leg straight. For quadriceps sets, contract or tighten your quadriceps muscles and hold for five seconds, keeping your leg on the floor or table. Perform straight leg raises by lifting your leg straight up about five inches off the table or floor. Hold this position for five seconds, and then slowly lower your leg back down. Perform two to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions daily.

Hamstrings and Hip Extensors

The heel slide and prone knee-bend exercises are excellent for improving hamstring strength and regaining flexibility in your knee. The heel slide exercise starts in a seated position with your legs straight. Slowly slide the heel of your injured leg toward you. Once you go as far as you can, slowly return to the starting position and repeat. While lying on your stomach, perform the prone knee-bend exercise by slowly bending or curling your injured knee. For a hip extensor exercise, start in the same position as prone knee-bends, but instead of bending your knee, lift your injured leg straight up off the table or floor. Hold this position for five seconds before lowering your leg back down. Perform two to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions daily.

Functional

Functional exercises are dynamic in nature and include squats, single-leg balance and stepups Perform squats in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms straight in front of you for balance. Slowly push your hips back and lower yourself down until your knees are at 45-degree angles. As your strength improves, work your way down to 90 degrees. Perform single-leg balance by a chair or countertop for support, and keep your injured knee slightly bent to avoid pain. As you progress, you may perform single-leg balance while closing your eyes or on a wobble board. For stepups, face sideways to a three- to five-inch step with the foot of your injured leg on the step and your opposite foot on the floor. Shift your weight to your injured leg and straighten your knee, lifting your opposite foot off the floor. Perform two to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions or 30 to 60 seconds, three and five days a week.

Additional Considerations

Do not perform any exercises that cause pain. Low-impact cardio exercises such as swimming and biking and light stretches should be included with your physical therapy exercises. To help manage pain and inflammation, ice after exercises and take over-the-counter pain medications.

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About the Author

Since 2007 Hannah Mich has written e-newsletters and been published in the "Missouri Journal of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance." She has a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Truman State University and a Master of Education in applied kinesiology from the University of Minnesota.

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