Knee Range of Motion Exercises Question

Over the last week I have received several questions regarding range of motion exercises for the knee after surgery. I have answered several of them but thought it would be a good idea to share them with everyone.



Hello, first i just wanted to say that i love your site and it was very resourceful. I was wondering if i can ask you a few question, I recently had acl surgery and mastectomy on right knee. I was wondering how long did it take you to regain full extension and full range of motion. I read a article and it said i should regain full extension as early as possible and full range of motion at 10-12 weeks. right now im more focus on getting full extension then my range of motion at the moment. I also read somewhere online that pushing down on the knee will help but can be very painful but some say i that you shouldn’t force due to graft. Thank you so much

Which type of surgery option did you do and did you use the continuous passive motion machine after surgery? My dr has recommended that I use it.

My name is Jo and I’m 21 years old. First, thank you so much for this page. So glad I came across it when searching for mobility exercises. I’m 4 weeks into my second ACL reconstruction (had my first at 15) and I’m having issues with mobility in particular. Not sure at what degree I am, but can’t bend fully and physio said it’s not good enough.

Sort of panicking because I read that when mobility is compromised, the risk of arthritis etc is a lot higher. All the exercises on your page are in my programme but they’re not helping anymore. Is there anything in your experience that I can do?

It’s also swollen still and quite painful, esp on the side of the knee. This worries me! You know what it’s like, you want this one to be the last one.

So basically all these questions come down to a few basic questions…

What exercises can I do to increase my knees range of motion?

The best exercises I have for increasing range of motion after surgery were originally shared on the post…Knee Range of Motion Exercises

Knee Range of Motion Exercise 1 – Heel Prop

The heel prop has you lying on your back with your heel elevated and knee hanging under its own weight wanting to return to 0 degrees. This exercise can cause some discomfort immediatly after surgery but is the most effective exercise at getting your range of motion to 0 degrees on extension

Heel Prop

Knee Range of Motion Exercise 2 – Heel Slides

Heel slides are good at both increasing your range of motion as well as increasing your knees strength. In the same position as the Heel Prop, lying on your back, remove the “prop” from under your heel so your leg is lying flat on the ground. With your leg flat on the ground slide your heel towards your but. This will stregthen your hamstring muscles as well as improve your range of motion.


Heel Slides

Knee Range of Motion Exercise 3 – Prone Knee Flexion

Range of Motion Exercise 3 – Prone Knee Flexion
Roll over onto your stomach and bend your knee moving your heel as close to your butt as possible. Again this exercise will improve your hamstrings strength and your knees range of motion.


Prone Knee Flexion

Knee Range of Motion Exercise 4 – Bike Pendulums

While sitting in a chair make ½ to full circles with no resistance. This will improve your range of motion and muscle communication.


Bike Pendulums - "bad form!"

Knee Range of Motion Exercise 5 – Quad Sets

Quad sets are when you place something, pillow or towel, under your knee and then flex your quad to push your knee into the towel or pillow. This increases the strength in your knee and helps get your knee back to 0 degrees range of motion.


Quad Sets

Additional tip to improve range of motion – sleep with nothing under your knee and on your back. The bed will bend enough to support the knee and having a slow, very gentle, extension overnight will grealy decrease the length of time it will take to get full extension in your knee.

Are there any tricks to increasing the knees range of motion? (passive motion machine etc…)

In my first surgery I used a passive motion machine the first night, I cant say it helped or didnt help since I have only had two surgeries to compare. I can say that I believe I experienced more pain in the first surgery due to the passive motion machine.

For my second surgery the surgeon didn’t suggest I use the CPM and when I asked about it he said there wasn’t any real evidence that it was better than you moving your leg yourself. So what he was saying was that although you don’t have to use the CPM it is important to get movement in the knee right after surgery. This also may not be consistent with all doctors since some will require you to have your knee in a brace immediately after surgery.

The Top 5 At Home Exercises
I did that helped get me walking 4 days after surgery

Click Here to see the exercises


  1. Jon Haver says:

    Hopefully some of these tips will help you increase your range of motion after you have had ACL surgery or any knee surgery.

    If there are other tips or exercises that you found helped yourself please let everyone know.

  2. I’m 3 months post-op (left ACL & meniscus) and found all of the above exercises helpful for range of motion. Additionally, I found hanging my leg off a table was helpful up to 90 degrees flexion. Another exercise helped me get past 100 degrees: laying on my back with my leg bent above me, letting gravity pull the calf down towards the thigh. These were both recommended by my therapist and have been a big help.

  3. Jon Haver says:

    Anna, I know both those exercises can be helpful, I personally remember finding the exercise with me lying flat being painful but effective. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi!! I torn my left knee biking a month ago, I’m having my surgery in 3 weeks, I’m wondering because I can’t still bend my knee more than 90-95 degrees, I can keep it straight if I’m sitting but not if I’m standing. I started biking at the gym and doing all these exercises but It’s not improving. Is this normal?? Will I be able to gain my full range of motion after surgery If I can’t do that right now? It’s still kind of swallow but I’m tired of this limp!

  5. Hi Romi. I also only had 90 degree then went to therapy for two weeks and got to 115. On my own I just hit a plateau. I had surgery on 7/13/11 and already have full extension and 90+ degree flexion and have done no exercises yet. I go back to the doctor in two days and I expect him to send me to therapy. I expect the full range of motion will come back with therapy. I have been dealing with this since April. Good luck with your surgery and recovery.

  6. Hi, I had ACL reconstruction 3 months ago, now I am struggling with my flexion as i barely reach 100 degrees.
    I did the surgery after 2 months of my injury and since the injury my flexion reached only 90 degrees.

    is this normal?

  7. Hi, One month out of surgery and I have full extension and 120 flexion. I have found many things that helped me get this far. I made sure from the time I came home from day surgery that I kept my heel on two pillows with my knee dropping back from gravity whether I was sitting with my leg up or sleeping. Because of this I never lost extension. Any time I moved or sat I made sure that I pulled my surgery leg back with the muscles past 90 degrees (yes it was uncomfortable). Since my doctor said I could walk on it as tolerated after the nerve block wore off I walked on it around the house without the crutches. When I went to my doctor’s appointment at one week he took the crutches away. Anytime I decided to sit up I would use my desktop instead of my laptop and pulled my leg past 90 degrees. My doctor doesn’t believe in babying the leg so no brace and even my therapy is aggressive and I am now only doing machines at therapy twice a week and about 6 pages of therapy exercises at home. At this time I don’t limp and only have slight problems coming down stairs. I can do everything else. The one thing I can say is push yourself to get back to normal even if it hurts. I had surgery two months after my injury and I am a not athletic 55 year old female. About the only thing I do is some day hiking in the fall and winter and swimming. Good luck to everyone on this site. Thanks Jon for this site and your encouragement. I believe it has helped me a lot. I expect I will be at full flexion this week.

  8. Hello I have had left knee acl allograft reconstruction and 90% of meniscus removed.that surgery was 7 months far I can bent around 110 degrees.if I try more,the pain is just unbearable. I feel a lot of pain all around the knee.also quadriceps,and around and deep underneath the surgery scars.should I feel worried about no full range of motion after 7 months? Physical therapist discharged me 2 mos ago saying just do the exercices.

  9. I’m 8 weeks post op (right ACL and repaired meniscus). According to what my Doc said, the extension is the tougher one to get back and therefore what you should work on the most. I had to keep my brace locked for the first 4 weeks because of the meniscus repair and then was allowed to work toward 90 for the next 3 weeks. Over the past week I’ve progressed to 120 degrees of flexion. I found that warming up really helps (riding the bike, doing small exercises). And then just bearing the pain and holding the stretch as long as you can. Wall slides have been helpful (lay on your back and put your foot on the wall and let it slide down as far as you can). It takes the pressure off of your quad. Keep working hard, that’s the key.

  10. Injury 6-12-11, Surgery 8-31-11
    43yo F

    I found that getting into the pool and doing ‘squats’ helped with the bending. Also walking in the pool trying to keep the leg straight on impact was very helpful. No worries about falling. I also swam laps with the injured leg just trailing but was able to get a great upper body workout. My swelling is near zero the next day when I can get in the pool.

  11. Hi!
    As of yesterday I am four weeks out from ACL reconstruction surgery. I am going to therapy 3 times a week and doing my exercises at home (which include all of the ones you suggested). I am stuck at 90-94 degrees even at therapy. Does this mean that I just have scar tissue I have to break through?

    Thanks for the website. It is nice to be able to connect with others who are going through the same thing,


  12. Hi my name is Fernando. I had ACL surgery and meniscus repair 7 weeks ago. Ive been having problems with bending my knee I can only bend 70 degrees should I be worriers or should I keep a positive state of mind and just keep pushing my self to establish my range in motion? I can straighten my though

  13. Hi! Im 17 years old and i tore my
    Acl, maniscus, and got bone grafting
    I had the surgery done on nov 21st and
    It’s been 2 months already and i
    Only reached 108 degress. CAN SOMEONE
    How long will it take me to get
    Full range of motion. Should i be worried
    Since, its been 2 months till surgery
    And i still havent got full range of motion?
    PLEASE HELP! Im really worried. THANKS!!

  14. Lisa Adams says:

    I had ACL reconstruction on 5th January nearly 10 weeks ago and I cannot extend my leg and can’t not get passed a 90 degree bend. It’s very painful all the time and I have different physio’s trying different things but I have little improvement.

    Walking is hard work and is now causing hip and back pain because the leg is like a dead weight.

    I know this is not normal but has anyone experienced this? Or could tell me who they overcame it?

  15. Hello Sir,
    Its almost three years i have gone through my patella dislocation surgery and my leg is unmovable for almost 45days because of white cement scrub to make me unmove my let. But after three years also my range of motion is just 90, how to get full range of motion can i get it or not..because its almost three year long time, please reply me fastly sir.

  16. Hey I got my range of motion to around 130 after two weeks I’m really scared that i have done something wrong as no one else seems to be getting these results. I pushed my self prett hard but never really felt and unbearable pain. Is this a good thing or bad thing. Is there a limit u should be doing?

  17. Marissa says:

    Kevin! I had a VERY similar experience (ACL/meniscal repair) – though it’s taken me about 2 months after the brace came off to reach 125 degrees – my PT said that the last 15 degrees will happen slowly and it takes time because there is still a little bit of fluid (about 10 ccs according to the doc) in my knee that makes it difficult to gain those last degrees. My PT and doc both agreed that yes, getting it straight is the more important achievement right off the bat!