Knee Pain

What Causes Knee Pain

The largest joint in the human body, the knee plays a large role in daily activities such as walking, squatting, and climbing stairs.  Despite its simple appearance, the knee joint is home to many complex structures that contribute to its function and injury to any of these structures can lead to discomfort and disability.  Injury to the ligaments or menisci of the knee can lead to a sensation of instability or locking of the knee, such as after an ACL or meniscal tear.  Muscular control problems can lead to pain beneath the kneecap (patellofemoral pain), tendinitis, or bursitis.  The knee can be a site for broken bones following an accident or trauma. Arthritic changes are common in the knee and physical therapy can be helpful as a non-surgical treatment or as rehabilitation following joint replacement surgery. Despite the variety of possible causes for knee pain, physical therapy is often helpful for reducing pain and improving daily function.

Symptoms and Diagnoses of Knee Pain

  • Knee, thigh, or lower leg pain or stiffness
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Swelling
  • Leg weakness
  • Poor balance/falls
  • Clicking or popping in the knee joint
  • Limping or difficulty walking
  • Feeling of instability on the affected leg
  • Pain with prolonged sitting or standing
  • Difficulty standing from chairs
  • Difficulty putting on socks and shoes

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Common Treatments of Knee Pain

  • Dry needling
  • Heat/Cold
  • Soft tissue mobilization/joint mobilization
  • Strengthening or stretching exercises
  • Balance exercises
  • Walking training/education for use of canes, crutches, etc.
  • Sports injury rehab

Treatment of knee pain will depend on the specific factors that contribute to the pain and disability.  For most injuries, pain management is a priority to allow injured tissues to heal.  Muscle control issues may play a part in ongoing pain, and exercises designed to improve the strength of the leg muscles may be prescribed to improve steadiness and restore motion.  Stretches may be prescribed if flexibility or joint stiffness is limiting knee movement and joint mobilizations may be helpful for persistent stiffness.  Recovery after a ligament injury or surgery can be complex, especially for athletes, and specific training may be needed to help with returning to sport performance.