Physical Therapy for Knee Pain
There are many causes of knee pain, and pain can often be associated with issues related to other body parts entirely, such as the hip or low back. Localized tendonitis is common, as is the softening of the cartilage. Many maturing adults suffer from Sinding-Larsen-Johansson or Osgood-Schlatter. Young athletes, especially those participating in jumping sports, can put a significant load on the kneecap and attached tendons and ligaments. Overuse and poor hip strength often lead to pain, tenderness, and swelling. Knee pain can be managed with taping and bracing, with stabilization and strengthening exercises, and a personalized program from a physical therapist.
Tears in the Knee
There are four ligament tears that can occur in the knee, an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) tear, a medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear, and a lateral collateral ligament (LCL) tear. Some tears are more common than others, and often impact athletes. Signs and symptoms may include pain, swelling, a “pop” sensation, or sudden instability. Physical therapy can help prevent and treat ligament tears with progressive strengthening and functional exercise. Meniscal Tears can also occur. The menisci (plural for meniscus) are cartilage pads that cushion the compressive loads in the knee. One or both of these pads can be torn, often when the lower leg is forcefully bent and twisted. Signs and symptoms include joint line pain, locking, and swelling of the knee.
Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome (ITBS)
The iliotibial band (IT band) is a long, flat, and strong tendinous structure that spans from the buttocks and hip, runs down the outside of the thigh, and inserts into the shin bone, just below the knee joint. The IT band can become inflamed and irritated, causing patients pain. Symptoms are typically the result of repetitive bending and straightening of the knee and are common in long-distance runners or cyclists. Physical therapists can evaluate walking and running patterns (gait), bike fit, body mechanics, flexibility, and strength. With proper education, stretching, and strengthening, patients can be relieved of this painful syndrome.
Osteoarthritis of the Knee
Osteoarthritis of the knee occurs when the cartilage coverings on the femur and tibia wear out. When the cartilage flattens, bone spurs form, and the joint becomes inflamed. Range of motion can be lost, and patients experience weakness and pain. It is often difficult to walk, climb stairs, and get in and out of chairs. Physical therapy can help to recover range of motion, strengthen the knee, improve walking skills, and manage pain.