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Keeping Your Knees Healthy and Happy
The knee is a relatively simple joint that is required to do a complicated job…to provide flexible mobility while bearing considerable weight. While walking down the street, our knees bear three to five times our body weight. When climbing stairs, that force can multiply to seven times our body weight.
That force is borne by compact structures of bone and cartilage, supported by muscles and ligaments. When the knee is overstressed in sports or in everyday activities, those structures can break down, and knee injury occurs.
The ACL, MCL, LCL, and PCL are ligaments that provide stability to the knee by limiting certain motions. Each meniscus is a pad of cartilage that helps absorb shock.
Treatment of Knee Injuries
There is, unfortunately, no quick cure for a knee injury. Physical therapy plays a key role in treating and rehabilitating the knee, but you and your attitude toward recovery are the biggest factor in achieving a successful outcome.
Your licensed physical therapist will design a phased treatment plan with two main components:
- Maximum protection: a series of exercises designed to help improve motion and decrease pain and inflammation.
- Improvement in movement pattern and alignment: exercises focusing on attaining proper alignment of the knee and performing motions in a manner that decreases stress placed on this joint.
- Return to function: an exercise sequence to restore strength. These activities are a functional progression, using increasingly more challenging exercises to simulate the stresses on your knee during normal activities.
Advances in surgical approaches to the knee joint have made repair to these structures practical in many cases. Arthroscopic surgery employs small incisions to access the joint. The surgeon views the damaged area through an arthroscope, hence the name.
These procedures are quick, involve a minimum of discomfort, and enjoy an excellent success rate. Such surgery is indicated when:
- Repair is needed for ruptured ligaments or torn menisci, or
- Some level of disability accompanies injury.
Preventing Knee Surgery
Your knee’s tolerance for stressful activities will decrease with age and loss of conditioning. So stresses that may not have caused injury last year could hurt your knee today. A decrease in your level of activity over a period of time will also contribute to the vulnerability of your knees.
But there are things you can do to help prevent injury so you can continue to enjoy sports and exercise. Pursuing an exercise program designed by your physical therapist and applying some good common sense can be your best protection from injury.
The first step in designing your exercise program is an evaluation by your physical therapist. He or she can identify your predisposing factors, those body traits that may make you more or less vulnerable to a knee injury.
Based on this assessment, your physical therapist can design a program that will help you gain your optimum levels of strength and conditioning.
How Physical Therapy Can Help Your Knee Problems
One way to think about your physical therapist’s role is as a coach to lead you through a course of action toward achieving your goals for your comfort and lifestyle.
It’s important to recognize that you, the patient, are the most important participant in the healing and prevention process. They are, after all, your knees. Whatever treatment you receive from others, the treatment you give them, day in and day out, is just as important.
Whether you’re currently suffering from a new injury, or trying to avoid one, your physical therapist has the skills to help. It all starts with a careful evaluation. Call today to schedule yours.