After injuring your knee, one of the most important things you can do to recover, is to follow the RICE principle:

R – REST:Rest the knee until you can walk without a limp. You may be aided by crutches.

I – ICE:

Ice the injured knee until all swelling is absent. Using an ice bag, apply the ice for 20 minutes, 3-4 times a day.


Wrap the knee, as directed by the doctor, to help reduce swelling.


Elevate the knee above the level of the heart. This also aids reduction of the swelling.



You should try to gain full range of motion in your knee as soon as possible. By doing this, you may be preventing scar tissue formation and a loss of knee strength. Perform these exercises after icing. Never pull or force your knee; only go to the point of pain:

image003 Flexion:Lying on your stomach, raise your heel, bending your knee as much as is comfortably possible. Hold this position for 5 seconds, lower leg, relax. Repeat 10 times.


While sitting, try to straighten your leg as much as possible. Your goal is to be able to touch the back of your leg to the floor — but do not force it. Hold for 5 seconds, relax. Repeat 10 times.


While sitting, tighten the muscles around your knee cap. Concentrate on tightening the muscle on the inside and slightly above the knee cap. Start your time count when the muscles are tight; start relaxation count when totally relaxed and use a watch with a second hand. Use the following progression:

         Day        Hold         Relax       Repeat
          1          5 sec.       5 sec.     10 times every waking hour
          2          6 sec.       6 sec.     10 times every waking hour
          3          7 sec.       7 sec.     10 times every waking hour
          4          8 sec.       8 sec.     10 times every waking hour
          5          9 sec.       9 sec.     10 times, 4 times per day
          6         10 sec.      10 sec.     10 times, 4 times per day


With your knee slightly bent, put your heel over the edge of a couch or table. Tighten your muscles on the back side of your thigh. Think of bringing your heel towards your body. However, no movement should take place — just tighten the muscles. Again, start counting when tight and start relaxation count when fully relaxed. Follow progression as in quadricep setting portion (see above chart).


Lying on your back, keep injured leg straight and bend your uninjured leg. Tighten the muscles on the front of your leg (quadriceps) and slowly lift the leg as high as you can. Lower slowly, then relax. Repeat as the progression chart directs. When you can perform 50 repetitions in a row, you may add weight (ankle weights work the best).

The average male should be able to lift 30 lbs., 50 times.
The average female should be able to lift 20 lbs., 50 times.

               Day        Repetitions

                1             25
                2             30
                3             35
                4             40
                5             45
                6             50


Arnheim, D. Principles of Athletic Training. 7th ed. 1989.

Roy, S. and Irvin, R. Sports Medicine: Prevention, Evaluation, Management and Rehabilitation. 1983.

Graham, G., ATC, RPT, MS. Knee Rehabilitation Guide. Mankato State University, Mankato, MN.

If you are concerned about any difference in your treatment plan and the information in this handout, you are advised to contact your health care provider.

(c) The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 1995

If you are a UIUC student and would like a hard copy of this handout, you may come to the Health Resouce Center at McKinley Health Center, Room 222 during the hours of 8:00 am and 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.