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Physical therapy phase I – external fixator

Physical therapy phase I – external fixator

Patient during physical therapy with an ex fix

These exercises are for current patient reference only. You will receive a personalized rehab plan after surgery.

General guidelines

Patient on crutches wearing fixator


  1. Standing and walking on surgical leg is encouraged! Crutches/walker are for comfort and balance only and may be weaned as able.
  2. Home exercise program twice daily.
  3. May use ankle weights and resistance bands under PT guidance.
  4. May pedal stationary bike, walk on treadmill, use elliptical as tolerated.
  5. It is safe and generally well-tolerated to lift from the external fixator rings when assisting patient in moving leg.

Positioning bracewear


  1. Wear ankle brace or dorsiflexion strap as instructed.
  2. Lie flat on stomach at least once daily for 30 minutes.
  3. No compression garments or devices. May elevate and ice as needed for swelling.


Ankle pumps

Ankle pumps: With leg resting on bed and knee straight, slowly pump ankle up and down as far as possible.

Quad sets

Quad sets: Tighten thigh muscle and straighten knee as much as possible. Hold 5 seconds.
Glute sets:Tighten buttocks, hold 5 seconds.

Hip abduction

Hip abduction: Slide leg slowly out to side, keeping knee straight and pointed towards ceiling.

Hip rotation

Hip rotation: Gently roll leg inward and outward, keeping knee straight.

Heel slides

Heel slides: Slowly bend your knee by sliding your foot as close to your buttocks as able.

Short arc quads

Short arc quads: Place a firmly rolled blanket under knee, with foot resting on bed. Straighten knee and hold 5 seconds.

Straight leg raise

Straight leg raise: Lie on your back with opposite knee bent. Slowly raise leg, keeping knee straight. Hold 2 seconds.


Heelcord stretch

Heelcord stretch: Pull heelbone AWAY from patient while pushing ball of foot TOWARDS patient. Hold 20 seconds.

Knee extension stretch

Knee extension stretch: Gently push down on top of thigh (just above the knee) while lifting calf upward, to straighten knee. Hold 20 seconds.

Hip extension stretch

Hip extension stretch: Lying on side. Stabilize pelvis with one hand firmly on buttocks while slowly moving thigh backwards, to straighten hip. Hold 20 seconds.

Hip abduction stretch

Hip abduction stretch: Take leg out to side until a stretch is felt on inner thigh. Keep knee straight. Stabilize hip on opposite side. Hold 20 seconds.

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  External Fixator Exercise Program, Phase 1
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Where to call with questions or concerns

Tracy Przybylski, PT
Physical Therapist
Limb Reconstruction and Lengthening
314-432-3600, ext. 1138

Jill Hahn, Clinical Coordinator
Limb Reconstruction and Lengthening