Knee pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions affecting 1 in 5 people. It affects people of all ages with symptoms either gradually developing over time or coming on suddenly associated with trauma or injury. Physiotherapists play an important role in diagnosing your knee pain, providing treatment and rehabilitation that is tailored to you.
A physiotherapy treatment plan can be designed specifically for your knee pain whether, it’s from a complete anterior cruciate ligament rupture, posterior cruciate ligament strain, meniscus tears (either partial or complete) or swelling and stiffness from arthritis or knee bursitis.
What are the most common presentations for different age groups?
In the younger population, more common presentations include anterior knee pain, patellofemoral pain syndrome which involves an irritation of the patellofemoral joint, patellar tendinopathy or acute injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament or medial collateral ligament sprains.
Within the older population, meniscus tears, knee replacements and knee osteoarthritis are more common and will often be more associated with restriction in movement, morning stiffness and pain with activity. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting 1 in 11 Australians and represents 62% of all arthritic conditions.
What kind of exercises will a physiotherapist give me?
Physio-recommended exercises for rehabilitation of the knee will vary depending on the injury you present with and what you would like to get back to doing. As a general rule, there are several key muscle groups that contribute to the stability and function of the knee which we will aim to strengthen. These include the quadriceps, hamstrings, calf and gluteus muscle groups.
Simple functional movements like squats, step ups and lunges are a great starting point and utilize these muscle groups. Seated knee extension, hamstring bridges, leg press and calf raises are also really great exercises to target these muscles more in isolation and should be incorporated into your rehab program.
Strengthing is a progressive cycle of putting the body under load and then allowing it time to adapt and recover. This progress overall takes time, anywhere from 6-12 weeks is what you can expect if your goal is to improve strength.
An important consideration with knee exercises is what weight and repetition range you should be aiming for. If you are just starting strength training or recovering from an injury, often starting with lighter load/weight and more repetitions (12-15 repetitions) for 3-4 sets will be a good starting point to get adaptation of the muscles/joint involved.
After you have developed a good baseline level of strength and you’re recovering well from your injury, it is an appropriate time to increase the weight and reduce the repetitions (5-8 reps) for anywhere between 4-5 sets.
Ideally, this weight will be anywhere from 70-80% of your one repetition max (the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one repetition) and we will be looking to reach a repetition range of 5-8 reps. It is imperative that the weight and repetition range are challenging/fatiguing for you, as this drives muscle adaptation and your improvement overall.
Below are some typical early stage knee rehab exercises that can be helpful.
NB: Exercise prescription should ideally be individualised to your needs, goals and fitness level.
How can a Physio help my knee pain?
Physiotherapists will be able to provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your condition, deliver guidance and education regarding movement and exercise, give you strategies for self management and a timeframe/plan for recovery.
In an acute injury setting or when severe pain is present, Physiotherapists can also provide hands on treatment, including massage, dry needling and trigger point therapy to reduce pain and help get you moving again.
Physiotherapists have the knowledge and experience to guide you through your rehabilitation in a structured, progressive manner to ensure you have the capacity to meet the demands of your chosen activity or sport.
Alternatively, physiotherapists can help with injury prevention to assist individuals to remain active, healthy and optimise participation in everyday activities or sport.
How serious is my knee pain?
Pain is a subjective measure and will vary for each individual depending on the severity and mechanism of the injury. With chronic pain in particular, it can also be influenced by other factors including beliefs, stress, sleep, work satisfaction, self efficacy and confidence with movement just to name a few.
With this in mind, if you are at all concerned about your knee pain it is worth consulting with a health professional.
What’s a fast way to relieve knee pain?
The severity of your knee pain will vary depending on the mechanism of injury and structures involved. With acute injuries it is important to offload the irritated structures. This assists in the early stages of healing along with compression, gentle loading exercises and walking if tolerable.
Conversely, with other conditions such as knee osteoarthritis we know that a sedentary lifestyle or by continually ‘resting’ your knee will actually have the opposite effect, potentially increasing pain and stiffness of the joint. With this particular condition, having a sound understanding of what is happening in your knee with the help of your physiotherapist, as well as strengthening and weight loss will help you manage your symptoms.
Should I walk on it?
Walking as a form of physical activity has many health benefits for your entire body. If tolerated with a manageable level of pain, walking can assist the healing of acute injuries and nourishment of articular cartilage through the movement of synovial fluid.
Walking can also assist in restoring confidence in your knee and improve your mood, which can assist in reducing pain.
If you’d like to chat to one of our expert knee physios, please don’t hesitate call us on 8490 0777 email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re ready to start your journey to improved knee function and reduced pain, you can book online here.