As mentioned above, if your client is working with or has been discharged from Physical Therapy, it’s best practice to contact the PT. I’ve found that visiting the PT (especially during the client’s session) is the absolute best strategy. Asking your client to provide the initial request from the PT and perhaps a phone number is a great place to start. In the end, you get face to face time with a potential referral source AND your client will appreciate your efforts.
As for the type of exercises, the bottom line is “pain-free”. If I’m working with a client who is recovering from an injury or surgery, my job is to find pain-free motion that loads the joint and provides a foundation to build from. From there, it all depends on the client goals matched with your professional understanding of how the joint will function best. My “post-rehab” clients all perform closed chain movements (or at least partial weight bearing) as this is the end game. If I can find a pain free way to load the recovering joint, then I start adding different upper extremity motions in all three planes and gradually reduce external supports. Once they are able to take a forward step (small ROM lunge), then you can drive the arms in different directions to help restore the 3D function of the joint.
For simplicity let’s assume a client is recovering from a R knee MCL repair.
Goal: Load the joint with a closed chain exercise (lunge motion) that reduces the medial forces on the R knee.
I would start with a small R foot lateral step and return as this provides good proprioceptive joint stimulation with minimal load on the medial R knee (unless the client lands with a valgus knee motion…which is unlikely during a small step and return. However, you can help the knee avoid this by sending the R hand laterally overhead in the opposite direction as the step). Once they are able to add pain free ROM to the lunge, then I progressively tweak the lunge toward the anterior (i.e., First set to 3 ‘oclock, second set to 2 o’clock and eventually straight forward to 12 o’clock. If there is any pain, I’ll ask the client to clasp the hands out front at about shoulder ht and send the hands to the R in the Transverse Plane (or laterally overhead to the opposite side as mentioned above).
From there, it’s all about gradual loading of the medial knee and eventually using small hand weights during the reaches.
Just a reminder that the example above is for an MCL injury. With the MCL/LCL combo, you will have to determine which plane of motion to drive the hands (or the lunging foot) to find the pain free zone (i.e., perhaps adding reaches in the sagittal plan (anterior/posterior).
Bottom Line: Find Success and THEN Progress!
Hope this helps!
San Diego, CA