Injuring your MCL (medial collateral ligament) can be a painful experience. This injury tends to cause persistent knee pain as well as other symptoms throughout the leg. The MCL plays many important roles in the body, especially around the knee. When functioning properly, the MCL helps prevent the knee from overextending and assists in knee rotation. As a ligament, the MCL is a connective tissue that works to stabilize the bones and joints. When this ligament is injured, it can be painful as well as debilitating.
To restore functionality in your MCL, proper rehabilitation can be a key to success. Physical therapy can be a great way to navigate your recovery with a range of treatment methods available. In addition to other treatment techniques, stretching is often an important part of rehab. Your physical therapist may prescribe certain exercises to practice between in-person sessions. These exercises can help you maintain consistent recovery progress. While the specific exercises may vary patient to patient, it can help to know some of the most effective physical therapy exercises for MCL rehab. With these MCL exercises, you can take control of your recovery.
Top physical therapy MCL exercises
- Quad sets — Quad sets are a fundamental MCL exercise. By strengthening the quadriceps muscle and improving knee extension, these sets can be highly beneficial. To start a quad set, extend one leg while sitting or lying down. Next, try pushing the back of your knee down toward the floor. You should feel the top of your thigh tighten when you do this. To make the exercise more comfortable, you can place a cushion under your knee before you push the knee down. Once your quadriceps are tightened, try to hold the position for a few seconds. Release; then repeat around 10 times. The specific number of repetitions you should do may depend on your condition and your physical therapist’s advice. In some cases, it can be helpful to do multiple sets throughout the day.
- Heel slides — To do heel slides, begin lying on your back with both legs extended. Bend your injured knee inward slowly and gently. As you do, gradually slide your heel toward your buttocks. Sliding your heel can put less pressure on your knee as it bends. This helps improve knee flexion without straining the MCL. Your physical therapist may recommend around 30 heel slides daily, divided into three sets of 10.
- Step-ups — Step-ups can be a great way to improve strength and balance in your legs. You will need a stable step or platform for this MCL exercise — a footstool or stair should work. Place the foot of your injured leg on the platform; then step up with the other foot. Step back down with your uninjured leg. Leaving your injured leg on the platform, continue to step up and down with the other leg for around eight to 10 repetitions. This functional exercise can help build coordination and gradually improve range of motion in the knee.
- Straight leg raises — Straight leg raises target the quadriceps muscle. By maintaining strength in this muscle, you can help improve stability in the knee. This makes straight leg raises a good exercise for MCL rehab. Start by extending your legs and lying on your back. Raise your injured leg around a foot off the floor. Keeping your leg straight, try holding it in the air for a few seconds before lowering again.You can alternate legs with each repetition for a comprehensive workout. However, keeping the focus on your injured leg is important for recovery.
- Mini-squats — Mini-squats are a progression from another popular MCL exercise called wall slides. While wall slides offer the assistance of the wall, mini-squats require your body to support itself. Your physical therapist may recommend both versions of this exercise at different points in your rehabilitation journey. To begin a mini-squat, stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend your knees slightly. Imagine you are about to sit down in a chair behind you and bend to that level. After bending, return to your standing position. This exercise is like a standard squat, except you should keep from bending all the way down. For some people with an injured MCL, deep squats can do more harm than good. The mini-squat is a good way to safely help restore knee strength and stability.
Learn effective MCL exercises at Lattimore Physical Therapy
Rehabilitating after an MCL injury can be a challenging process. At Lattimore Physical Therapy, we can help you each step of the way. Our skilled physical therapists can work with you to develop a tailored treatment plan that includes exercises designed to boost your recovery. We understand each patient’s injury and recovery process may differ. This is why we offer a range of treatment methods meant to pave the way for a successful recovery.
Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.