Your knees are shallow joints, stacked between your shins and upper legs, that will benefit from stretching exercises to keep them flexible. Sudden twisting motions could easily throw your knees out of alignment and you could be looking at rehabilitative therapy and chronic pain issues. Perform these ligament stretches for your knees on a regular basis to stack the odds in your favor.
The knee is the largest joint in the body and is essential for movement. The knee joint is composed of three bones — the femur, tibia and patella — and four ligaments that connect the bones and stabilize the joint. The collateral ligaments, on the sides of the knee, control sideways movement; the cruciate ligaments, on the inside of the joint, enable backward and forward movement. These ligaments may become injured as a result of overextending the knee, sudden impact to the knee or athletic injury; consult your doctor before beginning any stretching regimen, particularly if you have suffered a knee injury.
The medial collateral ligament connects the femur and tibia and provides stability for sideways motion in the knee, the Orthopedic Surgery of Quincy medical practice explains on its website. The MCL may become damaged or torn by twisting the knee, overstretching the ligament or from a sudden blow to the outside of the knee while the foot is planted on the floor. A medial collateral ligament tear is frequently seen in contact sports such as basketball and football. Your physician may recommend a quadriceps stretch to increase flexibility in the ligaments, tendons and muscles of the knee and increase your range of motion. Begin this stretch by standing. Grab the foot of your injured knee with the same hand and pull that knee up behind your buttocks. Keeping your knees together, continue this flexion until you feel a stretch. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions, three times daily.
Another exercise that may be recommended for flexion and mobility in the knees after a medial collateral ligament tear is heel slides. Begin by lying on your back. Begin to bend or flex the injured knee while keeping the foot firmly planted on the floor. Continue to slide the heel up as far as possible until you feel a stretch in the front of the knees. Keep the knee bent for five seconds and slowly straighten the knee to relieve the stretch. In the beginning, you may only be able to bend your knees to a 30-degree flexion; however, you should continue this stretch until you can fully bend your knee. Repeat this exercise 20 times, three times daily.
The anterior cruciate ligament is located in the middle of the knee and provides rotational stability in the knee joint, according to the MedlinePlus online medical encyclopedia. This ligament may become torn by a twisting or sudden change in direction while running or landing, or a blow to the side of the knee. Your physician may recommend a hamstring stretch to help stabilize and maintain flexibility in the knee, since the hamstring and quadriceps muscles help the ACL control the pivoting or sliding motion of the knee. Begin this stretch by sitting on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Ensuring that the knees are straight, begin to lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your thighs. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Perform two sets three times daily to restore mobility in your knee.
Another stretch that may be recommended for an anterior cruciate ligament tear is a wall slide. Loss of motion and extension is a common complication of this type of injury; this stretch can lengthen the affected soft tissue and promote flexibility and mobility in the knee. Begin by lying on your back. Straighten your affected leg and place it on the wall. Allow the leg to slide down the wall by bending your knee. Continue this downward movement until you can no longer bend your knees. At the lowest and highest point of your knee extension, hold the stretch for five seconds. Perform three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, three times daily.
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons; Combined Knee Ligament Injuries; August 2007
- Sports Injury Clinic: Medial Ligament Sprain Mobility
- MedlinePlus: Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury; Aug. 26, 2009
- Chesapeake Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center: How to Reduce the Risk of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries of the Knee