Physiotherapy is a critical component in the treatment of knee pain. Your physician can prescribe something for pain and inflammation, but the knee is a joint and requires therapy to promote complete healing of a knee injury or condition.
The treatment of your knee pain with physiotherapy will take some time and effort on your part. Your therapist will do work in the therapy gym, whirlpool and then you will do exercises at home. All appointments need to be kept and instructions from your therapist carefully followed.
There are a multitude of different physiotherapy treatments for your knee pain and the therapist will do a thorough evaluation and assign the best treatment for your condition or injury. First, you need to understand about knee pain and the different conditions that cause it. It is also good to understand knee pain symptoms and the length of time it takes to treat knee pain.
What causes knee pain?
Whether you had an acute injury or you suffer from arthritis, knee pain can be very miserable to tolerate. Often, pain medications do not even work well for knee pain. This is because the knee is a moving joint that we use all the time. The doctor may even immobilize an injured knee for a few weeks until the pain begins to subside. Some of the causes of knee pain are:
- Knee surgery
- Sprain or strain
- Acute injuries
Regardless of the cause of knee pain, there are physiotherapy treatments that can help you. Your therapy will be tailored to the cause and you will need to work with your therapist and do exercises at home.
How do I treat knee pain with physiotherapy?
You will be referred to a physiotherapist by your physician and first get a thorough evaluation. The therapist will then plan a course of treatment based on your needs. Usually, there will be about 3 sessions a week that last about an hour each. During physiotherapy sessions the therapist will perform heat and massage prior to stretching or exercises. You will then be directed to do the stretching and exercises with the therapist first and then be given more to do at home yourself. Some of the different exercises you will do are:
Tensing the Quadriceps – You will lie flat on your back with your legs straight in front of you. You will then tense your quadriceps one at a time holding them tense for about 5 to 10 seconds and then release. This will strengthen the muscles that control the knee.
Inner Range Contractions – Sit with your legs out in front of you and place a rolled soft item under the knee. Lift your foot and heel up and place back down. Do this 15 times each leg. This also strengthens the quadriceps and improves the range of motion to the knee joint.
Knee Bends – In order to walk properly, your knee must be able to bend at least 70 degrees. In order to restore full walking ability, you will need to start performing knee bends. Deep knee bending is usually saved for the end of your therapy. Sit with your legs out in front of you and draw your knee up as far as it will go. Only go as far as you feel comfortable without pain and then increase the bend as tolerated.
Knee Bend Prone Position – With this position you will lie on your stomach. Slowly bring your foot and heel up, bending the knee and lifting the bottom half of your leg up towards your buttocks. Go slowly and only go as far as tolerated. Push yourself just a little more each day until you can bend your knee up to where your foot and ankle are over the back of your knee.
Some of these exercises may be performed with resistance bands in the therapy gym to further strengthen the quadriceps. You may even be given resistance bands to take home. Each set of bands is a different color and the colors are a degree of resistance. The therapist may start you with the least resistance and gradually increase the amount as you progress. The bands will be attached around the ankle area and you will gently pull on the other end with your hand, while generating a resistance against your foot being raised or lowered. This technique is also very good for working the hamstring muscles in the back of the leg, which further supports your knees. Here are some of the types of bands you will be working with:
Yellow – Least resistance. It generates about 2.5 pounds of resistance and usually the first band used early in therapy.
Red – Moderate resistance. This band generates about 4.5 pounds of resistance and is the mid-cycle of therapy.
Green – Heavy resistance. This generates about 5.0 pounds of resistance, but most therapists graduate from red directly to the next level, blue. This level is more popular with more severe and slower healing surgeries or injuries when blue would be too much for the patient.
Blue – Extra heavy resistance – This generates about 7.5 pounds of resistance and is the most commonly used resistance band in therapy. Therapists tend to use this as it is the most effective for strengthening after the early stages of therapy has been completed. You can expect your therapist to move you to a blue band rather quickly. The reason behind this is the faster you build up your muscles that support the knee, the faster your knee can heal.
If you undergo physiotherapy treatment for your knee pain, expect to work hard with your therapist. Your treatment will focus on strengthening the muscle groups and ligaments that support the knee. The stronger these muscles are, the more chances your knee can get proper rest and heal. Work with your doctor and therapist, rest when you need to, but push yourself to work those muscle groups and that will help you get back on your feet faster.