Imagine if you felt stuck during simple daily life activities such as walking, climbing up or down the stairs, getting up from a chair, etc. They all require simple knee movement: knee flexion. It is when you bring your heels close to your hips, so as to bend your leg at the knees. A fully flexed knee is when your heels touch the hips.
One should be mindful of whether their knees are healthy or not. If the flexion is deteriorating over time, a journey in the opposite direction doesn’t require much effort. You only need to know if there is anything to worry about or not. If so, small consistent sets of stretches can bring your knees back to top-notch health.
What is the normal knee flexion?
The normal knee flexion for an adult male is 130.4 (129.0 – 131.8) and for an adult female is 133.8 (132.5 – 135.1) as quoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a person ages, the normal angle decreases.
Why measure knee flexion?
Since the knee flexion reduces naturally, it is important that it is measured at long and regular intervals to ensure that only natural degradation is taking place. If the degradation is more than expected, then you must consult a specialist.
All measurements should be taken while lying down on a hard surface with a mat. A mattress doesn’t give accurate measurements because your back isn’t entirely straight.
How to measure knee flexion at home?
A very simple way to measure knee flexion at home is to measure the distance between your hips and heels when your knee is fully flexed. This doesn’t give you a precise angle but it gives you a quantity to measure which can be compared over time to see if progress has been made.
You know your knee is fully flexed if you are able to bring your heel closer to hip without pain behind knee.
To measure the distance between your heels and hips, lie down on your back and flex your knee till you feel a tightness in your thighs. Then use a tape measure or a scale to measure the distance between your hips and the heel. Repeat for the other leg.
How to measure knee flexion with a goniometer?
A goniometer is a device used to measure the angle of the knee flexion. It has two arms, where one is stationary and one is movable. The arms are hinged together and have markings at the hinge for angle measurements.
The stationary arm of the goniometer is placed next to your thigh, centering the hinge at your knee. The movable arm is adjusted to align with your calf. The markings on the goniometer give a reading for the knee flexion angle.
Goniometers also come with data loggers which are attached to your leg for a pre-decided time interval. The readings are then analyzed by a data analyst to identify movements that were hindered by the limited knee-rom.
Goniometers are usually used by specialists to accurately measure your knee flexion angle to keep track of the progress being made. Although, you can also purchase a goniometer and use it at home.
How to improve knee flexion?
While it is recommended to consult a specialist to design a rehab program tailored to your needs, below are some stretches you should incorporate in your daily life in order to maintain a good knee flexion even at old age. You may consult a specialist to know the exact number of repetitions, sets, and frequency you should follow or you may adjust them according to your level of comfort overtime.
Lie down on your back with your knees bent at approximately 90 degrees. For one leg at a time, slide your heel away from your hips till you feel a gentle stretch in your hips and knees. Hold the position for 2-3 seconds and then bring it back. You can start off with 2 sets of 15-20 repetitions a day and adjust your routine as you go, according to your own body.
Prone Knee Flexion
Lie down on your chest with your legs straight. For one leg at a time, bring your feet towards your hips, as much as possible. You will feel a gentle stretch in your thighs and knees. You can start off with 2 sets of 15-20 repetitions a day. Remember to adjust your repetitions and sets according to your body.
Knee Flexion with Wall Assist
Lie down on your back next to a wall with your feet on the wall. Slowly bring one foot towards the floor and hold it for a few seconds. If you feel stuck before reaching the floor, stop till you are a little past your comfort zone and hold the position. You will feel a gentle stretch in your knee. You can start with 2 sets of 15-20 repetitions a day. As you progress, your foot will start coming closer to the floor. You may adjust your sets and repetitions according to your comfort.
Why do these exercises help?
These exercises target the muscles which contribute to knee flexion. The muscle groups involved in knee flexion primarily include the hamstring muscles i.e. the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus (shown in image). These hamstring muscles fine-tune the movement that takes place in your lower legs, including the bending of the knee.
By stretching these muscles, you keep them flexible, strong, and healthy. The flexibility in turn contributes to the knee rom.
Knee flexion is a movement critical to our daily life. It is important to be aware of whether the degradation you feel overtime in your knee is natural or not. This can be done by knowing the range of normal knee flexion and comparing your own with it to determine how healthy your knee joint is.
If you feel that there is room for improvement, you should consult specialists at Premier Pain Centers so they can design proper rehab plans for you.
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