So if you're having a knee problem and you're involved in a physical therapy program, the physical therapist will likely provide you with a home exercise program which will be modified almost every time they're in the clinic, the patient's in the clinic. But if you're going to try to deal with your knee pain on your own and you don't have the time for physical therapy or you don't know where to go, there's a general rule you might want to follow. That is to try to keep it real simple in the beginning with tackling your pain and then the flexibility of the knee, followed by doing some strengthening and then some functional training. So there's an order there of dealing with the pain first, then the range of motion, and then the strength and function. There is some overlap within those terms, but you want to try to keep it to that order.
Regarding the pain, real simple. You want to rest it. You're going to ice it, maybe ice it more than once a day, and this can take a couple of days for you to notice that the pain is a little better and you're able to walk a little bit better. That might be your sign to know when it's time to move on to the next phase, and that is starting to bend and straighten out your knee at home, maybe on the floor with some heel slides, concentrating both on the bending part and the extending part.
Again, once that is sort of underway and you're noticing that's improving, you then move on to the more strengthening options. I think the best place to start with strengthening is going to be what's called your open chain exercises. These are your exercises where you're actually lifting your leg up against gravity. You're concentrating on one specific muscle, and you're just lifting and maybe doing sets of 10, switching sides doing the other leg if you want to balance things out.
Then from open chain exercises, you're going to move on to what's called your closed chain exercises. Those are often called your functional exercises. That's where your feet are on the ground and you have to use your hip, your knee, and your ankle and your truck together in unison to complete the exercise. There's your squats and your lunges, etc.
So there is some overlap from one step to the next. But in general I think the first painful response step will be about a three to five to seven day period. Then you move on to the range of motion and strengthening the second and third week, and probably by the fourth week you're looking into the functional exercises and the functional training. So about a month's worth of exercising before you want to consider maybe challenging yourself at the gym with some higher level things.