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Knee Arthritis: Exercises


Here are some examples of exercises for you to try. The exercises may be suggested for a condition or for rehabilitation. Start each exercise slowly. Ease off the exercises if you start to have pain.

You will be told when to start these exercises and which ones will work best for you.

How to do the exercises

Knee flexion with heel slide

Picture of knee flexion with heel slide
slide 1 of 6
slide 1 of 6, Knee flexion with heel slide,
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Slide your 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.
  3. Hold for about 6 seconds, then rest for up to 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  5. Switch legs and repeat steps 1 through 4, even if only one knee is sore.

Quad set

slide 2 of 6
slide 2 of 6, Quad set,
  1. Sit or lie down on a firm surface or the floor with your affected leg straight. Place a small, rolled-up towel under your knee.
  2. Tighten the thigh muscles of your straight leg by pressing the back of your knee down into the towel.
  3. Hold for about 6 seconds, then rest.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  5. It's a good idea to repeat these steps with your other leg.

Straight-leg raises to the front

Picture of straight-leg raises to the front
slide 3 of 6
slide 3 of 6, Straight-leg raises to the front,
  1. Lie 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.
  2. Tighten the thigh muscles in your affected leg by pressing the back of your knee flat down to the floor. Hold your knee straight.
  3. Keeping the thigh muscles tight and your leg straight, lift your affected leg up so that your heel is about 30 centimetres off the floor. Hold for about 6 seconds, then lower slowly.
  4. Relax for up to 10 seconds between repetitions.
  5. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  6. Switch legs and repeat steps 1 through 5, even if only one knee is sore.

Active knee flexion

Picture showing active knee flexion
slide 4 of 6
slide 4 of 6, Active knee flexion,
  1. Lie on your stomach with your knees straight. If your kneecap is uncomfortable, roll up a face cloth and put it under your leg just above your kneecap.
  2. 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 motion.
  3. Slowly move your leg up and down.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  5. Switch legs and repeat steps 1 through 4, even if only one knee is sore.

Quadriceps stretch (face down)

Picture showing quadricep stretch (face down)
slide 5 of 6
slide 5 of 6, Quadriceps stretch (face down),
  1. Lie flat on your stomach, and rest your face on the floor.
  2. 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.
  3. Hold for about 15 to 30 seconds, then relax your leg against the towel or belt strap.
  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
  5. Switch legs and repeat steps 1 through 4, even if only one knee is sore.

Stationary exercise bike

Picture showing stationary exercise bike
slide 6 of 6
slide 6 of 6, Stationary exercise bike,
  1. If you do not have a stationary exercise bike at home, you can find one to ride at your local health club or community centre.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 pain.
  4. 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 less effort.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.