What can PT do for my Knee Pain?
Knee pain can be caused by structures in and around the knee, or referred from back and hip. A physical therapist can identify the structure(s) causing pain and help you to restore normal range of motion, strength, and mechanics to allow for improved ability to perform daily tasks to high level athletic feats.
Common Structures that cause knee pain:
- Tendons (For more information, please visit our "What is Tendonitis?" page)
- Bursa (For more information, please visit our "What is Bursitis?" page)
- Meniscus - The meniscus is a semicircular cushion that helps to absorb shock in the knee joint. It can tear with forceful rotation of the knee joint (such as the foot being planted and the knee being struck from the outside-common in football and soccer)
- ACL/PCL or MCL/LCL - These are the ligaments that support the knee joint and prevent unwanted movement of the joint. They can be damaged through trauma or repetitive stress.
- ITB (Ilio-tibial Band) - the thick band running along the side of the leg from the hip to the outside of the knee.
- Patello-femoral pain - caused by abnormal pull on the knee cap
Common problems leading to knee pain
- Weakness of the buttock and hip muscles
- Flat feet or over pronation while walking/running
- Poor footwear choices (flip-flops, high heels)
- Repetitive jumping, running
- Trauma (falling on the knee, car accident, sporting injury)
What to do:
- Contact your physical therapist! Your therapist will be able to identify the structures causing pain and the biomechanics or problems that led to the onset of the pain. Your therapist will be able to provide treatment to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation, restore range of motion and strength, reduce muscle imbalances and/or correct structural faults, and return you to normal function while preventing further injury.
- Following an acute injury: Use the acronym R.I.C.E. - Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. If it is painful to put weight through the leg, use crutches or a cane until you can walk without pain. This will prevent poor movement patterns and limping that will have to be corrected later.
- For subacute/chronic injuries: Move the knee through full range of motion for both straightening and bending. Strengthen the muscle surrounding the knee, and use ice as necessary for flare ups of pain or swelling. Follow your physical therapists instructions regarding specific exercises for your individual circumstance.
Some knee injuries will require surgery, but most do not. In fact, recent studies show that physical therapy for most knee injuries is just as good, if not better than surgery long term in restoring function.
I would recommend that anyone with knee pain see a physical therapist first before even thinking about surgery. Even if you do end up needing surgery in the future, the benefits of rehabilitating the knee (getting full range of motion, reducing swelling, and improving strength) prior to surgery can make the recovery following surgery much easier.