Physiotherapy Exercises for Knee Pain
First, let’s see what causes knee pain and how physio can help:
Knee Pain at a Glance
Knee pain is one of the most common yet overlooked musculoskeletal conditions. It can result from injuries to the hip or knee, or indicate another problem, such as arthritis, gout, or patello-femoral syndrome.
In severe cases, surgery is the only option. Each year, over 30,000 Australians have knee replacement surgery. Two-thirds of them are women.
Statistics show that about 20 percent of women experience knee pain. The rates are higher in those over 60 years old. Approximately 15 percent to 20 percent of men have this issue. Knee pain affects children and teenagers too due to the rapid growth of the bones and joints.
The pain can occur suddenly, or develop over the years. Some people only experience pain when running or jogging. Athletes are at high risk for knee pain. Sports activities, especially endurance exercise, causes wear-and-tear of the joints, which may lead to injury.
Causes of Knee Pain
From osteoarthritis to metabolic problems and trauma, knee pain can have a variety of causes. The knee is a complex joint involved in everyday movements. Thus, it’s more prone to injury.
Most times, the pain is caused by overuse or musculoskeletal conditions. It can diffuse throughout the knee, or localized to a specific area. Either way, it limits your flexibility and range of motion. You might not be able to work out, run, walk, or bend your knees.
Some exercises can make the pain worse and cause further damage. For this reason, it’s recommended to see a physical therapist before resuming your training routine. He will develop an exercise plan that helps reduce stress on the knees and strengthens the surrounding tissues.
Knee pain is often accompanied by crunching or popping noises, weaknesses, redness, stiffness, swelling, or loss of balance. Its intensity may vary. It all comes down to the cause of your problem. Some of the most common issues that may trigger knee pain include:
- Reactive arthritis
- Infectious arthritis
- Juvenile arthritis
- Meniscal injuries
- Iliotibial band syndrome
- Dislocated kneecap
- Ligament injuries
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Lyme disease
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome
- Loose cartilage
For instance, runner’s knee or patello-femoral pain syndrome is one of the most common knee injuries among runners. It causes swelling and pain that gets worse when walking downhill or downstairs. In this case, the physiotherapist may recommend shoe orthotics from a Podiatrist, strengthening and stretching exercises, ice therapy, and compression garments.
Another possible cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis. This chronic disorder affects more than 1.8 million Australians. It’s more common among those over the age of 50, causing the wear and tear of the knee joint.
Active individuals are prone to ligament injuries. These issues may occur due to a sudden change in directions or direct impact. Some knee injuries, such as bursitis, may lead to severe inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Others may cause the patella to move out of position.
As you see, knee pain can have a myriad of cases. Thus, it’s essential to have your knees examined by a physiotherapist or other health professionals.
How Can Physio Help with Knee Pain?
Physiotherapy exercises can help relieve pain and restore joint flexibility. They also strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints, which may lower the risk of future injuries. Depending on the cause of knee pain, your therapist can recommend:
- Hamstring stretches
- Calf stretches
- Standing quadriceps stretches
- Seated leg raises
- Straight-leg lifts
- Single-leg dips
- Hamstring curls
- Wall squats
- Half squats
- Knee stabilization series
- Static hamstring contractions
- Heel cord stretches
- Leg extensions
- Hip abductions and adductions
- Leg presses with resistance bands
A custom exercise plan will help you return to daily activities after a knee injury or surgery. To stay safe, perform these exercises under your doctor’s supervision. Otherwise, the pain can get worse. Your physiotherapist will show you how to exercise safely without putting stress on the knee joint.
Physio treatment can include a mix of stretching, strengthening, and flexibility exercises. Its goal is to restore your mobility and keep the muscles strong. Most exercise programs last for up to six-twelve weeks. However, you can and should continue to work out for lifelong health of your knees.
Whatever the cause of knee pain, exercise can help. First of all, it strengthens the muscles that support your knees. Secondly, it helps maintain a healthy weight, which in turn, takes pressure off your joints.
Tight muscles are more vulnerable to injury. For this reason, it’s important to do strengthening and stretching exercises. You can also try swimming, walking, cycling, and other gentle activities.
Physiotherapists may also recommend proprioception and balance exercises, especially after an injury. These movements help improve your balance and teach your body to control the position of an injured or a deficient joint.
Besides exercise, knee pain can be treated with joint mobilisation and manipulation. Also referred to as manual therapy, these techniques help increase range of motion and facilitate movement. They also lower inflammation and ease pain.
A skilled physiotherapist can identify the cause of knee pain and provide a variety of treatments. If you’re obese or overweight, they can help you lose the extra pounds and restore joint mobility and may refer you to an exercise physiologist to assist with this. You will also learn what exercises to avoid and how to maintain proper form when working out.
Surgery should be your last resort. Medications can help but the results are temporary. On top of that, most drugs carry potential side effects that can affect overall health. Physiotherapy is much safer and provides lasting benefits.