Physical therapy for knee pain is a comprehensive examination and assessment of the complete lower leg, from hip to foot. Your physical therapist can assess your knee discomfort and recommend the appropriate therapies, such as exercises and modalities, to help reduce pain and increase overall mobility.
The Knee’s Anatomy
The human knee is a hinge joint attaching the tibia (shin) and the femur (thighbone). The patella or kneecap is in the front; four ligaments support the knee joint; the knee contains two shock absorbers, known as a meniscus.
Knee pain can be brought on by repetitive trauma, strain, or damage. It can happen from time to time for no apparent cause. You may feel functional limitations due to knee pain, such as difficulties walking, rising from a sitting position, or using the stairs.
Exactly What Kind of Knee Pain Do You Have?
If you have knee pain, you must first identify whether the pain is acute, sub-acute, or persistent. This can aid in the accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Acute Pain: This is the most severe type of pain, and it lasts for 1 to 7 days following the injury. Before beginning any mobility, you should rest the knee and allow the wounded structures to recover.
Sub-Acute Pain: This might last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks following an accident. To assist in recovering mobility, begin gentle movements around the knee at this time.
Chronic Knee Pain: Defined as pain that lasts longer than 8-12 weeks. Chronic knee pain should be checked by a medical professional.
Knee Pain Symptoms and Their Location
The location of your knee pain might aid in determining which structures are responsible for your discomfort and ensuring proper therapy.
If your symptoms are severe or linger for more than a few weeks, consult your doctor, physical therapist, or another healthcare provider.
Pain in the Front of the Knee: When there’s a pain in the front of the knee, it’s possible that you have patellofemoral stress syndrome caused by a problem with the position of the kneecap (P.F.S.S.). Inflammation and pain can occur in the kneecap and the tendon connecting it to the shin. Kneeling, ascending or descending stairs, and running and jumping are restricted by pain in this area.
Pain on the Inside of the Knee: When there’s pain on the inside of your knee, it’s most likely due to medial meniscus or medial collateral ligament damage. A common scenario is when a person’s foot is on the ground, and their torso twists over the knee, the inside structure of the knee is injured. Inside the knee, the medial meniscus acts as a shock absorber. This can be damaged by wear and tear or by arthritis. It can become painful without any specific injury.
Pain on the Outside of the Knee: An injury to one or more structures on the outside of your knee might cause pain. There is a ligament there that can be harmed while participating in sports. Illiotibial band (ITB) tension can also produce pain in this area. 3 From the outside of your hip to the front of your knee, the ITB is a thick band of tissue. The ITB might rub abnormally on the knee as it crosses it, causing a burning discomfort. One of the three hamstring tendons is also located on the outside of the knee. Knee pain could be caused by a strain on this tendon.
Back of the Knee Pain: Back of the knee pain is uncommon, although it can happen. A hamstring strain is most likely the cause of pain here, as one of the hamstring tendons attaches here. A Baker’s cyst is another probable source of pain in this area. This is a type of abnormal knee swelling that takes up space in the back of the knee and creates pain when the knee is bent too far.4
If you have acute knee discomfort, use the R.I.C.E. principle right away. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (R.I.C.E.). After a few days of R.I.C.E., you can start gradually using the leg.
If your knee pain continues for more than two weeks, you should see a doctor, physical therapist, or another healthcare expert to rule out any serious issues and guarantee proper diagnosis and treatment.
What to Expect From Knee Pain Physical Therapy
If you’ve been sent to physical therapy for knee discomfort, the first session is crucial for ensuring proper diagnosis and treatment. Your physical therapist will do an assessment at this visit to learn about the history of your condition, aggravating and relieving variables, and any previous medical history that may have contributed to the overall problem. A focused examination will be undertaken based on the information acquired throughout history. The examination may include, but is not limited to, the following sections:
- A gait evaluation is a measurement of how you walk. Physical therapists are trained to recognize subtle changes in knee motion throughout various periods of walking.
- Palpation entails touching numerous structures around the knee with the hands to detect anomalies or determine whether a structure is uncomfortable to touch.
- Measurements of Range of Motion: Range of motion refers to how far the knee can bend or straighten. To help direct treatment, the physical therapist may use special devices to evaluate how your knee moves.
- Strength Measurements: Because the knee has so many muscle attachments, a strength measurement can assist evaluate if muscular weakness or imbalance is the source of your knee pain.
- Evaluation of Your Balance: Excessive stress and strain may be directed to your knee if your balance is poor, causing pain.
- Swelling or girth measurements: Swelling in the knee joint can occur after an injury on rare occasions. To help direct treatment, a physical therapist may assess the amount of swelling.
- Special tests are specialized maneuvers performed around the knee to assist in determining which structure is at fault and producing the condition.
Knee Pain Treatment with P.T.
Following a thorough evaluation, your physical therapist can collaborate with you to begin the appropriate treatment. It is critical that you make a commitment to participate in the program. Exercises to strengthen and increase the knee’s mobility are frequently advised. Part of your treatment plan may include doing exercises at home.
Exercise should be your primary treatment option for knee discomfort.
Exercises that can help with knee pain include:
- Straight leg lifts and quad sets
- Quads with a short arc
- Hip-strengthening exercises are a great way to get your body in shape. (Your hip muscles aid in the control of your knee position.) Knee discomfort can be caused by weakness in this area.)
- Stretching the lower extremities.
- Exercises to improve balance
Your P.T. will tell you how often you should do your exercises at home, and when you visit the P.T. clinic, he or she will keep track of your progress. While you’re at the P.T. facility, he or she may also do other therapies.
These may include the following:
- Electric stimulation with ultrasound
- Application of heat or ice with taping
- Knee joint mobilization or soft tissue massages
Keep in mind that passive treatments for knee pain have not been demonstrated to be the most helpful. Although they may feel nice, the goal of physical therapy should be to restore functional mobility. You should talk about the general goal of each treatment so that you know what to expect.
A visit to a physician or healthcare practitioner is required if knee discomfort lasts longer than two to three weeks or arises as a result of serious trauma.
The knee is a large joint in the body that allows you to walk, climb stairs, and get out of a seated posture. One or more of these activities may be restricted due to knee pain. Knee discomfort can be avoided, and mobility can be maintained by working with your physical therapist and maintaining the knee joint mobile and strong.