Knee Pain and How Physical Therapy Can Help

Knee pain or discomfort is one of the most common orthopedic issues individuals face. Before you start physical therapy for knee pain, your therapist will start with a thorough evaluation and assessment of your entire leg from hip to foot. Once assessed, your physical therapist will prescribe you a personalized treatment plan including exercises and modalities. This will help reduce your knee pain and improve mobility.

3 Different Types of Knee Pain

If you experience knee pain, it is important to determine if the pain is acute, sub-acute, or chronic in nature. This can help guide proper diagnosis and treatment.

  • Acute Pain: Usually the most severe and occurs 1-7 days after injury. During this time, you should rest the knee and let the injured structures heal before initiating any motion.
  • Sub-Acute Pain: This occurs from 2-6 weeks after injury. This is a good time to initiate gentle motion around the knee to help regain mobility.
  • Chronic Knee Pain: Pain lasting greater than 8-12 weeks. Knee pain that is chronic should be evaluated by your healthcare provider.

Your physical therapist will choose the proper treatment based on your knee pain’s location and symptoms. Remember to check with your physician if your knee pain is severe or lasts longer than a few weeks.

If you develop acute knee pain, follow the RICE principle, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

What Can I Expect During Physical Therapy for Knee Pain?

If you are referred to physical therapy for knee pain, the initial visit is important to ensure correct diagnosis and proper management. During this visit, your physical therapist will interview you to gather information about the history of your problem, about the aggravating and relieving factors, and about any past medical history that may contribute the overall problem. From the information gathered during the history, a focused examination will be conducted.

Treatment for Knee Pain

After a focused examination has been completed, your physical therapist can work with you to initiate the correct treatment. It is very important for you to be active and engaged in the program. Often, exercises to help strengthen and improve the mobility of the knee will be prescribed. You may be required to perform exercises at home as well as part of a home exercise program.

Exercise should be your main tool for treating your knee pain. Exercises to help your knee pain may include:

  • Quad sets and straight leg raises
  • Short arc quads
  • Exercises to strengthen your hips (Your hip muscles help control the position of your knees. Weakness here may cause knee pain.)
  • Lower extremity stretches
  • Balance exercises

Your PT will tell you how often to perform your exercises at home, and he or she should monitor your progress when you visit the PT clinic. He or she may also perform other treatments while you are in the PT clinic. These may include:

  • Ultrasound
  • Electric stimulation
  • Kinesiology taping
  • Application of heat or ice
  • Soft tissue massages or knee joint mobilization

Keep in mind that passive treatments like ultrasound or estim have not been proven to be the most effective treatment for knee pain. They may feel good, but your focus with PT should be on restoring functional mobility. You should discuss the overall goal of each treatment so you have an understanding of what to expect.

If knee pain persists for more than two to three weeks or occurs as the result of major trauma, a visit to a physician or health care provider is recommended.

From Gateway Rehab & Wellness Center

The knee is a major joint in the body that is responsible for walking, climbing stairs, and rising from a seated position. Pain in the knee can limit one or all of these activities. By working with your physical therapist at Gateway Rehab & Wellness in Mission Viejo, CA, and keeping the knee joint mobile and strong, problems with knee pain may be avoided, and your mobility can be maintained.

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