Flexion Contracture Exercises for the Knee

Range-of-motion exercises can help improve a flexion contracture in your knee.

People with a flexion contracture of their knee joint can experience mobility problems due to a flexed knee. A flexion contracture occurs when the tissues in your knees thicken after a period of immobilization and prevent your knee from bending. Range-of-motion exercises can help improve movement in your knee joint. Complete exercises for a knee flexion contracture only under the supervision of your therapist or doctor.

Exercise Recommendations

People who sit or lie with their knee flexed for extended periods of time may develop knee flexion contractures. To maintain normal function and subsequent motion in the joints, soft tissues, muscles and ligaments affected by a flexion contracture, perform range-of-motion exercises throughout the day. Range-of-motion exercises such as stretching, bending and rotating your knee increase blood flow and flexibility to promote movements such as walking and climbing stairs. Complete gentle passive-stretching exercises with mild to moderate force for a prolonged time. The intensity and duration guidelines vary depending on your unique situation.

Range-of-Motion Exercises

Range-of-motion exercises for a flexion contracture of the knee may be passive, active-assisted or active. Passive range-of-motion exercises require no patient participation -- they are performed entirely by your therapist, friend, family member or caretaker. Active-assisted range of motion exercises require some assistance from another person. You can do active range-of-motion exercises on your own. Passive range of motion exercises are slow and gentle -- never with force, jerking or overstretching a muscle.

Rotation and Bending Exercises

Range-of- motion exercises that rotate and bend your knees increase flexibility in a knee affected by flexion contracture. During passive knee rotation, your knee is bent so that your foot on the affected side lies flat on a bed or mat with your leg rolled inward as much as possible. You attempt to touch the bed with your big toe. Next, your leg is rolled outward as far as possible. Try to touch the bed with your little toe. To work the hip and the knee joints passively, a hand is placed under the affected knee. The knee is bent upward to your chest as much as possible. Then, the hand is relocated from your knee to your upper thigh to help keep your knee bent as far as possible.

Stretching Exercises

Daily range-of-motion passive stretching exercises can also increase movement in a knee joint affected by flexion contracture. A passive stretching exercise is performed with one hand on top of the thigh and the other hand just below the affected knee. Pressure is applied with both hands to raise the leg. The stretch is held to a count of 25. The stretch is then increased slightly and held again for a count of 25. The stretch is continued for five or 10 minutes and repeated several times a day, or as recommended by your doctor.