Can Physical Therapy Help With Knee Pain?

Knee injuries are pretty common and one of the most painful types of injuries. You might have an issue with your knee the moment you realize you cannot move your legs properly or are facing difficulty in carrying out a particular task that involves a lot of moving around. The good thing is that there are ways to curb the pain and stiffness in your knee with the help of physical therapy.

Physical therapy (PT) is a type of rehab that allows you to relax all your muscles and joint pain. This type of therapy is usually conducted with the help of a professional therapist who will show you different exercises and moves to strengthen your muscles and improve your knees. Read further and learn how physical therapy can help with knee pain. 

Why Do You Need Physical Therapy?

People require physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in their body, allowing them to move freely. One of the most important reasons why people acquire physical therapy is to curb knee pain. The knee, which is more like a hinge joint, comprises of the shin, thigh and the kneecap, which is located right in front of the knee. The knee gets its support from four ligaments and two shock absorbers known as the meniscus.

When your knee experiences continuous trauma through strain and injury, then you’re most likely to suffer from knee pain. Sometimes the pain might just occur out of the blue for no particular reason. When you experience pain in your knee, you’re limited in carrying out certain tasks and find it difficult in engaging in simple physical activity such as sitting, walking, or climbing up and down the stairs. When things get this difficult, you need to stop doing what you are doing and undergo physical therapy, as that is the best way to get relief from knee pain and get back on your feet. 

Types of Knee Pain 

There are different types of knee pain that you might experience. It is important to what type of knee pain you’re experiencing, as this way, you can attain better diagnosis and treatment. Mentioned below are the three main types of knee pain:

  • Chronic Knee Pain: Chronic knee pain lasts for more than 8-12 weeks as it’s the type of pain where you will need immediate medical assistance to figure out a proper treatment.
  • Acute Pain: Acute pain is the more severe type of knee pain that lasts around for only 1-7 days after you’ve experienced an injury. In order to deal with this type of pain it is best to get some rest before things get worse. 
  • Sub-Acute Knee Pain: Sub-acute pain lasts for around 2-6 weeks after your injury. During this time period it is best to let your knee to heal by engaging in gentle motions so that you knee is able to regain mobility. 

How to Ensure Proper Physical Therapy for Knee Pain 

If you require immediate physical therapy, then you must first know where exactly your knee hurts. Physical therapy involves focusing on a particular part of the knee so that it gains enough attention and relaxation. You have to be able to determine where in the knee structure you’re experiencing pain, and that if it requires treatment. Mentioned below are the different locations you might experience knee pain, and the symptoms that come with it:

Internal Knee Pain 

If you’re experiencing internal knee pain, then it is most likely that there is an injury in the medial collateral ligament or the medial meniscus. These injuries usually take place due to extra athletic activity when the foot come in regular contact in the ground and the body twists over the knee. This part of the knee is located right inside and you might experience occasional arthritis in this area, and it is very prone to damage even if there is no specific injury caused. 

External/Front Knee Pain 

External knee pain usually occurs when there is an issue in the kneecaps positioning and tracking. This is often known as patellofemoral stress syndrome (PESS). If you ever happen to have this syndrome then your kneecap and the tendon that lies between the shin and the kneecap may experience inflammation, leading to crucial pain. Because of the pain experienced through this, you are usually unable to move about freely, kneel, jump, run and ascend or descend the stairs. 

Back Knee Pain 

Back knee pain is a very rare place for pain to occur. If you experience back knee pain, it means that one of your hamstring tendons may be strained and that is why the pain occurs. The Baker’s cyst is another reason why you may be experiencing pain in the back of the knee. Baker’s Cysts is an abnormal swelling of the knee joint that takes up space in the area behind your knee and causes the knee to bend. 

External/Outside Knee Pain 

Outside knee pain occurs mainly due to an injury in different structures. The outside portion of the knee, including a ligament could sustain an injury during athletics. The term used to describe this type of pain is  Iliotibial band stress (ITB).

ITB is a thick tissue situated on the outside of your hip and runs to the front of your knee. When this crosses the knee, the ITB tends to rub abnormally against your knee and cause excessive burning. The outside of your knee also includes one of the three hamstring tendons that may be strained and this also leads to pain. 

What Happens During Physical Therapy for Knee Pain?

Before starting with the main part of physical therapy that involves all the exercises and movement to relieve muscle tightness and pain, you will first begin with the evaluation process. Once you are able to find a professional licensed physical therapist, he/she will examine you and try to come up with the best treatment plan.

Your therapist will discuss different types of ways you can receive treatment. When examining your knee, the therapist will lightly move it to see if you are able to balance, stand on one leg, and the weakness in your knees. Mentioned below are the different types of ways your physical therapist will examine your knee:

Range of Motion Measurements

Range of motion measurement is a type of evaluation to see how far your knee is able to bend or straighten out. To carry out this examination, the therapist will use specific instruments to measure the movement in your knee, and according to this, they can curate a proper treatment plan. 

Gait Evaluation 

Gait evaluation is a type of assessment to see how well or bad you can walk. Though you might find yourself walking perfectly fine, physical therapists are able to detect small changes in the walking motions and the way your knees move. This way, they will be able to tell if there is a major issue in the knee or not, and what type of treatment to offer.

Strength Measures

Strength measurement allow the therapist to determine if there is any muscular weakness or imbalance that is leading towards pain in your knee. This is easily determined with the help of muscular attachments included around your knee. 

Palpation

Palpation is another form of examination that involves touching the different structures around your knee using ones hands. This way a professional can tell whether there are any abnormalities present on the knee and to see how much pain is caused in that particular area. 

Swelling or Girth Measurements

This assessment involves measuring the level of swelling present in your knee. After an injury, there is usually a lot of swelling present in the knee. Using this type of evaluation, your physical therapist will be able to determine the amount of swelling present. 

Balance Assessment

There is a good chance that you may have poor balance if there is excessive strain and stress around the knee. This usually leads to pain and is something that a physical therapist will check for. 

Specific Tests

There are special types of test conducted around the knee that will help the therapist determine the main structure on the knee causing overall knee pain. 

Types of Physical Therapy Exercises for Knee Pain


Once the therapist conducts a proper examination and knows what the main issue in your knee is, they will then move on to the treatment plan made for you. There will be different exercises that will help straighten and improve your knee. Mentioned below are a few exercises that your therapist will teach you, and you will most likely have to follow them at home as well:

  • Balance Exercises
  • Short arc quads
  • Hip strengthening exercises
  • Low stretches
  • Straight leg raises
  • Quad sets

Takeaway 

If you experience any type of discomfort in your knee, it is important to attain professional medical help and go through physical therapy. The only way to improve any major knee pain caused by an injury is to relax it and follow the guidelines of your physical therapist.

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