Physical Therapy Techniques for Leg Strengthening

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When your legs are recovering from injury or surgery, your doctor will probably recommend physical therapy to strengthen the leg muscles and increase the range of motion around your joints. Physical therapy usually involves using specialized equipment under the supervision of a physical therapist. Here are some exercises you may find yourself called upon to do on your own.

Calf Press

  • While standing, take a short step forward, leaving the heel of the leg that needs therapy on the ground. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then bring both feet together. This exercise can then be repeated with the same leg or you can alternate between legs.

Heel Slide

  • Lay on your back and begin bending your knee, while at the same time sliding your heel toward your buttock. Bring your heel in as close as you can and hold the position for 5 seconds. Slowly slide your heel back to the starting position. This exercise can then be repeated with the same leg or you can alternate between legs.

Knee Press

  • Lay on your back with your legs flat and toes pointed toward the ceiling. Try to press the back of your knee against the floor. This should cause you to flex the muscles around the knee. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then relax. This exercise can then be repeated with the same leg or you can alternate between legs.

Straight Leg Raising

  • There are four variations of this exercise with each one designed to strengthen different muscles in the legs. Lay on your back and lift your leg up about a foot off the floor and hold it for 10 seconds. Lower your leg back to the floor. This helps the quadriceps. Repeat the same motion but do it while lying on your stomach. This will help the hamstrings. Next, lay on your side and raise the leg needing therapy upward 12-18 inches. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then lower your leg. This will help your abductor muscles. Finally, lay on the same side as the leg that needs therapy. Rest your good leg on a support about 2 feet off the ground. Raise the leg that needs therapy up to the good leg and hold for 10 second before lowering it. This also helps the abductor muscles.

Recovery Times

  • Recovery times will vary depending on the injury or the surgery. A torn or removed meniscus takes 4-6 weeks for a full recovery. A repaired meniscus take 4-6 months for full recovery. ACL reconstruction takes 6-9 months for a full recovery. Removal of loose bodies from the knee takes 2-4 weeks for a full recovery. Repairing of a loose body can take 6-8 weeks to fully recover. Chondromalacia or arthritis takes around 2 weeks for recovery.

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