Knee Injury

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What exercises are recommended, and what exercises should be avoided during rehabilitation for a knee injury?

During physical therapy for rehabilitation of a knee injury, the patient will be given specific exercises by the physical therapist in order to strengthen and stabilize the knee joint. These exercises include strengthening the front of the thigh (quadriceps), back of the thigh (hamstrings), calf, and hip. Consult your doctor and your physical therapist before starting any exercise program. Your physical therapist should insure you perform the exercises properly before doing them on your own.

If you have any pain or discomfort while doing prescribed exercises, see your doctor or physical therapist.

Some exercises your physical therapist may recommend include the following:

  • Quad sets
  • Straight leg raises
    • Straight-leg raise to the front
    • Straight-leg raise to the back
  • Hamstring curls
  • Heel raises
  • Heel dig bridging
  • Shallow standing knee bends

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) has an exercise guide that includes directions and pictures. Consult your doctor or physical therapist before trying any of these exercises on your own.

Some exercises to avoid following knee injury include the following:

  • Full-arc knee extensions
  • Lunges
  • Deep squats
  • Hurdler's stretches

These exercises can further stress already damaged knee joints.

What is the recovery time for a knee injury?

The recovery time for a knee injury depends on the type and severity of the injury. If the injury is significant enough to require surgery and/or physical therapy, the recovery time will be longer.

Simple strains or sprains can last for one to two weeks. More extensive injuries requiring arthroscopic surgery may take one to three months to heal.

Major traumatic injuries to the knee may take up to a year to heal.

Following the doctor's instructions for rest, immobilization, staying off your feet, and avoiding exercise that aggravates the injuries will help speed recovery.

Physical therapy can also speed recovery time. It is important to follow directions of your physical therapist to insure you are doing the exercises correctly and attaining the best results.

Chronic knee injuries that do not require surgery may flare up from time to time. Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and cortisone injections are used to provide temporary relief.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/6/2016

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