Knee pain is a common complaint in outpatient orthopaedic clinics. A large percentage of patients present to physical therapy with chronic symptoms, many which have been treated previously by various practitioners with minimal (or only short-term) relief. Research has identified this as a problem, and the research community is continually trying to identify predictors of knee pain in various patient populations, and identify best treatment strategies for the different types of knee disorders.
At Life’s Work Physical Therapy (LWPT), we understand the difficulty in treating patients with knee pain. Each therapist is trained within the North American Institute of Manual Physical Therapy (NAIOMT), which specializes in differential diagnosis of musculoskeletal injuries. This training aids not only in the differentiation of the various structures at fault with an injury, but also helps to identify other various issues which may be contributing to the patient’s presenting problem. It is our belief that most knee injuries occur because of something else within the kinetic chain, which sets up the patient’s knee for potential problems.
The good thing is that research also agrees physical therapy is beneficial in treating patients with knee pain. Recently, a systematic review of research on meniscal lesions stated that physical therapy was as effective in patient outcomes as knee surgery. Also, a physical therapist has been shown to be as effective as an MRI at identifying possible meniscal and ACL tears in patients, at a fraction of the cost of an MRI. Research on rehabilitation after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction is well documented, with accelerated rehabilitation protocols and moderate-to-excellent long-term outcomes in post-op patients. Physical therapy for knee osteoarthritis can significantly decrease pain and improve function, while slowing down the need for a possible total knee replacement. Patellofemoral (kneecap) pain can also improve with physical therapy, and research has highlighted that most treatment benefits occur from treating other contributing areas around the knee which affect the mechanics around the kneecap, stating the importance of a thorough physical therapy evaluation.
If you are experiencing knee pain, either acute or chronic, you should contact your physical therapist today. The quicker you begin treatment on an injured area, the quicker it can get on the road towards recovery. It is common to begin compensating for knee pain soon after an injury, setting you up for pain in other areas, and deconditioning the affected limb through lack of appropriate use. Your physical therapist will help you identify the structure causing your knee pain, as well as the other contributing factors involved with your condition, and design a plan of care specific to your condition and your functional goals. The treatment will help you get back to your normal function, while giving you tools for long-term success and overall body health.