These exercises can help
stretch and strengthen your leg muscles and reduce knee pain and stiffness.
Before you try any of these exercises, talk to your doctor or physical
therapist. He or she can help design an exercise plan that is best for
If you feel pain when you do these
exercises, stop. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if there are other
exercises that you can do to keep your muscles flexible and strong.
Knee flexion with heel slide
slide 1 of 6
slide 1 of 6, Knee flexion with heel slide,
Lie on your back with your knees bent.
heel back by bending your affected knee as far as you can. Then hook your other
foot around your ankle to help pull your heel even farther back.
Hold for about 6 seconds, then rest for up to 10
Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Switch legs and repeat steps 1
through 4, even if only one knee is sore.
slide 2 of 6
slide 2 of 6, Quad sets,
Sit with your affected leg straight and supported on the floor
or a firm bed. Place a small, rolled-up towel under your knee. Your other leg
should be bent, with that foot flat on the floor.
Tighten the thigh muscles of your affected leg by
pressing the back of your knee down into the towel.
Hold for about
6 seconds, then rest for up to 10 seconds.
Repeat 8 to 12
Switch legs and repeat steps 1 through 4, even if only one
knee is sore.
Straight-leg raises to the front
slide 3 of 6
slide 3 of 6, Straight-leg raises to the front,
on your back with your good knee bent so that your foot rests flat on the
floor. Your affected leg should be straight. Make sure that your low back has a
normal curve. You should be able to slip your hand in between the floor and the
small of your back, with your palm touching the floor and your back touching
the back of your hand.
Tighten the thigh muscles in your affected
leg by pressing the back of your knee flat down to the floor. Hold your knee
Keeping the thigh muscles tight and your leg straight,
lift your affected leg up so that your heel is about 12 in. (30 cm) off the floor.
Hold for about 6 seconds, then lower slowly.
Relax for up to 10
seconds between repetitions.
Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Switch legs and
repeat steps 1 through 5, even if only one knee is sore.
Active knee flexion
slide 4 of 6
slide 4 of 6, Active knee flexion,
on your stomach with your knees straight. If your kneecap is uncomfortable,
roll up a washcloth and put it under your leg just above your
Lift the foot of your affected leg by bending the knee so
that you bring the foot up toward your buttock. If this motion hurts, try it
without bending your knee quite as far. This may help you avoid any painful
Slowly move your leg up and down.
Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Switch legs and repeat steps
1 through 4, even if only one knee is sore.
Quadricep stretch (facedown)
slide 5 of 6
slide 5 of 6, Quadricep stretch (facedown),
Lie flat on your stomach, and rest your face on the
Wrap a towel or belt strap around the lower part of your
affected leg. Then use the towel or belt strap to slowly pull your heel toward
your buttock until you feel a stretch.
Hold for about 15 to 30
seconds, then relax your leg against the towel or belt
Repeat 2 to 4 times.
Switch legs and repeat
steps 1 through 4, even if only one knee is sore.
Stationary exercise bike
slide 6 of 6
slide 6 of 6, Stationary exercise bike,
If you do not have a stationary exercise bike at
home, you can find one to ride at your local health club or community center.
Adjust the height of the bike seat so that
your knee is slightly bent when your leg is extended downward. If your knee
hurts when the pedal reaches the top, you can raise the seat so that your knee
does not bend as much.
Start slowly. At first, try to do 5 to 10
minutes of cycling with little to no resistance. Then increase your time and
the resistance bit by bit until you can do 20 to 30 minutes without
If you start to have pain, rest your knee until your pain
gets back to the level that is normal for you. Or cycle for less time or with
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerJoan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Joan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.