Knee pain can be caused by disease or injury. Among American adults, approximately 25% have experienced knee pain affecting the function of the knee. The prevalence of knee pain has increased over the past 20 years, with osteoarthritis being the most common cause in individuals over the age of 50.
Knee pain that is caused by injury is most often associated with knee cartilage tears. Knee injuries can occur as the result of a direct blow or sudden movement that strains the knee beyond its normal range of movement. Knee pain can cause difficulty performing activities such as walking, rising from a chair, climbing stairs, or playing sports. Physical therapists are specially trained to help diagnose and treat knee pain, and help individuals return to their normal activities without pain or limitation.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
Based on the findings of your evaluation, your physical therapist will develop a customized rehabilitation program to ensure a safe return to your desired activities. Some general treatment techniques may include:
- Pain management. Your physical therapist may provide treatments using different "modalities" such as ice, heat, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation to help decrease pain and swelling.
- Manual therapy. Your therapist will apply manual (hands-on) therapy to gently guide movement of the knee area to restore joint and tissue mobility.
- Therapeutic exercises. Your physical therapist will prescribe specific strengthening, flexibility, and endurance exercises to address your specific needs and goals.
- Functional exercises. You will learn individualized exercises designed to help you return to your home, work, and sport activities. These also may include balance and coordination exercises.
- Self-care instruction. Your physical therapist will teach you ways to manage your pain at home, and design a safe and effective home-exercise program based on your specific condition, which you can continue long after your formal physical therapy sessions have ended. You also will learn how to avoid placing unnecessary forces on the knee during your daily activities for years to come.
Real Life Experiences
Monica is a healthy, active, 56-year-old woman who strives to eat right, maintain her weight, and exercise daily. A few weeks ago when Monica was dismounting from her exercise cycle at home, she lost her balance and twisted her right knee. She felt a sharp pain along the inside of the knee. The pain increased when she put weight on her right leg. In what seemed like just a few minutes, she noticed swelling in the knee area. The next morning, her pain felt worse. She had trouble walking and getting through her workday.
She called her doctor, who recommended that she see her physical therapist.
Monica's physical therapist performed a thorough evaluation of her right knee. She found that Monica had tenderness over the medial joint line, on the inside of the knee between the femur and tibia. Monica also had some mild swelling, occasional locking of the knee, and difficulty squatting.
Her physical therapist diagnosed medial knee pain, and conducted special tests that indicated Monica may have torn her medial meniscus. To verify the diagnosis, she consulted with Monica's physician, and X-rays were ordered. Monica was relieved to learn that the X-rays showed no broken bones. Her physician agreed with the diagnosis, determined that surgery was not necessary, and recommended a course of physical therapy.
Monica's physical therapist designed an individualized treatment plan that began with manual therapy techniques to help decrease her knee pain, and reduce any swelling in the area. She taught Monica how to apply ice to manage her pain and swelling at home. In further sessions, as Monica's pain lessened, her physical therapist taught her exercises to increase her knee motion and, eventually, to strengthen the muscles around the knee and hip.
As she continued to improve, Monica learned functional exercises to help her return to her active lifestyle, including stair-climbing exercises, squats, and lunges. Her physical therapist also taught her a comprehensive home-exercise program to continue long after her formal treatment was completed.
At her final physical therapy session, Monica reported that she was pain-free, and had resumed all her activities at home without difficulty. Her physical therapist concluded that her medial meniscus had healed, and that no further treatment was necessary. Monica noted that she felt even stronger than she had before her injury, due to the variety of new exercises she was performing.
Just today, Monica began to train for a 5K walk with her friends-something that she had always wanted to try!
This story was based on a real-life case. Your case may be different. Your physical therapist will tailor a treatment program to your specific case.
*article courtesy of moveforwardpt.com