Knee Pain: Physical Therapy Exercises for Knees
An Introduction to Knee Pain
Knee pain is one of the most common complaints we treat in physical therapy! No matter how old you are, knees can be tricky joints, but they are critically important to the way we walk, run, jump, and everything in between. Knee pain relief can be achieved in many cases through physical therapy alone, but sometimes it is important to have a surgeon take a look. Things like ACL tears, or severe osteoarthritis, may require surgical intervention to get back to your normal activities.
More often than not, however, a physical therapist will be more than capable of designing physical therapy exercises that can help cure your knee pain. Whether you are struggling with pain that has built up over time, or a recent injury, a physical therapist will perform tests to determine what the issue is and set up a plan for your speedy recovery.
If you are preparing for a knee surgery, especially a knee replacement, it is often beneficial to meet with a physical therapist a few times before your surgery to begin the rehabilitative process beforehand. This allows you to begin to strengthen the muscles around the joint in the hopes of shortening your recovery time after surgery.
Common Causes of Knee Pain
Knee pain can and injuries can affect people of all ages, but specific activities and age groups may increase a person’s risk for developing certain knee conditions. In children, knee pain may be the result of growing pains, fractures, or Osgood-Schlatter disease which is an inflammatory condition that develops from overuse.
Ligaments are another common cause of knee pain, as they are the part of the knee joint that firmly hold the bones together, especially during strenuous activities like sports.
In athletes of all ages, ligament tears are a common injury, including ACL, PCL, LCL, and MCL tears. During sports or other athletic events, ligaments in the knee can be damaged if there is a collision or twisting that bends the knee in certain directions. The menisci of the knee are arranged between the two bones and provide some support of the joint, as well as resisting twisting motions.
When the menisci are damaged, it can cause significant knee pain and difficulty with walking. Osteoarthritis, or degeneration of the joint itself, can also cause pain as the bones may not have the support they need to work together properly. Damage and inflammation of the muscles that surround the knee can also cause pain and decreased functional ability.
For example, very active people, or those who have recently ramped up their activity level, may experience pain on the front of their knee due to inflammation of the quadriceps tendon. Regardless of what led you to experience knee pain, our physical therapists are highly experienced in this area and ready to help!
Strengthening Exercises to Reduce Knee Pain
If your physical therapist determines that your pain is coming from a muscular problem, or if you are recovering from surgery, you will likely participate in a strengthening program as part of therapy. Some of the muscles in your hip, and many of the muscles in your leg and foot all connect to the knee joint.
Having so many muscles connected to the knee can be a good thing, but it also leaves room for issues if the muscles aren’t strong, or become torn or degenerated.
Some of the most important muscles for knee function and reduction of pain are the quadriceps, the hamstrings, and the calf muscle complex. The quadriceps are responsible for straightening the knee, but it also plays a role in controlling how fast the knee bends.
The hamstrings bend the knee, and also help control how fast the knee straightens. Strengthening both of these muscles is an important step in reducing knee pain with walking, stair climbing, or any other similar activity.
Safe Stretching Exercises for the Knee Joint
While it is essential for the muscles around the knee to be strong, it is also important that they are flexible. Muscles that are too tight can cause pain by pulling on their attachment sites at the joint, or creating movement compensations that damage the knee. For example, having very tight or shortened hamstring muscles can make it difficult to straighten the knee all the way.
This can cause issues with the pattern you use to walk, and can alter your posture and the forces on your knee, hip, and even back. If your physical therapist notices that muscle shortness or inflexibility may be causing your pain, they will prescribe a stretching routine and may use manual techniques and massage to loosen up your muscles. Schedule an appointment to start reducing your knee pain and get back to normal!