Initial Exercises After Knee Arthroscopy

After undergoing knee arthroscopy—also known as a "knee scope"—it is important to begin exercising your knee immediately to restore strength and the full range of motion. Working with a physical therapist can help you learn which exercises would be best for your specific condition.

Initial exercises should be non-weight bearing in nature and should focus on gentle strengthening of the muscles surrounding the knee as well as increasing joint range of motion.

As always, you should discuss starting any exercise program with your orthopedic surgeon prior to initiating it. Most physicians will approve an early rehabilitation program, however, others may ask you to wait a week or so after your procedure.

What to Expect

Initially, you will experience some swelling and discomfort in the knee for a few days post-operatively. You will most likely be given a prescription for pain medication and an anti-inflammatory drug to help alleviate these symptoms.

You should expect to feel a gentle stretch while performing your knee exercises, but you should not experience any pain. Any activity that causes significant discomfort should be stopped immediately. It is also a good idea to ice and elevate your leg after performing these exercises to decrease any increase in swelling.

The following exercises are appropriate for immediate post-arthroscopy rehabilitation. The movements should be gentle and steady. Bouncing or over-stretching should be avoided. Read on to review these four exercises.

Quadriceps Contraction

University of Iowa Clinic

The quad set exercises is a great way to get your quadriceps muscles working after a knee scope. Here is how you do it:

  1. Lay on your back on a flat surface.
  2. Place a rolled towel under your ankle between you and the surface.
  3. Tighten the muscles on the top of the thigh and attempt to push the back of your knee down toward the ground. This will cause your knee to straighten as it moves toward the surface you are laying on.
  4. Straighten your knee as much as possible and hold the position for 5 seconds. (Avoid any type of bouncing motion.)
  5. Relax and repeat 10 more times.

Hamstring Contraction

Your hamstring muscles help to bend your knee, and keeping them strong is important after knee arthroscopy. Here is how you get them moving:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 10- to 15-degree angle.
  2. Without moving your leg, pull your heel into the floor, as if you were trying to bend your knee, but the floor is preventing motion from happening. This will cause the hamstring muscles on the back of your thigh to contract.
  3. Hold this for 5 seconds.
  4. Relax and repeat 10 more times.

Gluteal Sets

The gluteal set exercise is a great way to get your hips working and to help keep blood moving in your legs and hips after surgery. It is a simple exercise to do. Here's how:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 10- to 15-degree angle.
  2. Squeeze your buttock muscles together, like you are holding back flatulence.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Relax and repeat 10 more times.

Straight Leg Raises

University of Iowa Clinics

The straight leg raise is an important exercise to do after knee surgery, as it can help improve the way your hip and knee muscles work while still protecting your knee. Here is how you do it:

  1. Lie on your back on a flat surface.
  2. Bend the knee of your uninvolved leg (the one that wasn't operated on) to a 90-degree angle with your foot flat on the surface. Keep your involved leg straight without the knee bent.
  3. Slowly lift the involved leg 6 inches off the floor (by contracting the front thigh muscles).
  4. Hold for five seconds.
  5. Slowly lower your leg to the floor.
  6. Relax and repeat 10 more times.

The knee of the raised leg should remain straight throughout this exercise. Focus on lifting by using the muscles on the front of your hip joint.

The straight leg raise exercise can be done on your side as well to work different hip muscles. Later in recovery, the exercises can also be made more challenging by adding a cuff weight to your thigh or ankle. A resistance band may also be used to add some more challenge to the exercises.

A Word From Verywell

After a knee scope, exercise can be your main tool to help you restore normal range of motion and strength. This can help you regain normal walking and running ability. Check in with your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist after knee arthroscopy, and then get started on knee exercises to quickly and safely get back to your normal activity level.

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2 Sources
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  1. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Knee Arthroscopy Exercise Guide.

  2. Kaye AD, Urman RD, Cornett EM, et al. Enhanced recovery pathways in orthopedic surgeryJ Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol. 2019;35(Suppl 1):S35-S39.