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Knee Pain and Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can significantly decrease knee pain and is an excellent non-invasive treatment in most cases. Along with reducing knee pain, there are several other benefits that most people notice. 

Knee pain can result from injury, overuse, or disease, and pain levels can range from mild to severe. Working with a skilled and experienced physical therapist to evaluate your knee pain and create a personalized treatment plan will significantly improve your recovery. Usually, physical therapy for the knee entails two to three physical therapy sessions a week for multiple weeks and exercises given to you by your physical therapist for you to do at home.

Whether your knee pain is old or new, even if you have tried physical therapy in the past, you can benefit from a comprehensive physical therapy treatment program specifically designed for you. Below we will discuss physical therapy for knee pain, including how knee pain is evaluated and treated and the many benefits of physical therapy.

It’s Time to See a Physical Therapist

If you are experiencing knee pain and any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with a physical therapist today if:

  • You have difficulty straightening or flexing your knee
  • Your joint appears deformed or misshaped
  • You were unable to bear weight on your knee
  • Your knee locks, buckles, or makes grinding or clicking sounds
  • Your pain lasts longer than three days after an injury
  • You have severe pain even while you are resting
  • You have tingling, numbness, swelling, pain, or discoloration that extends to your calf area below your knee
  • You have redness, swelling, or warmth around your knee 

If you are in the acute phase of any injury during the initial 48 to 72 hours, it’s usually best to rest and provide comfort measures.

Physical Therapy Evaluation for Knee Pain

In general, the goals of physical therapy are to focus on strengthening, stretching, restoring mobility, and breaking up scar tissue. Your physical therapist will outline specific exercises based on your condition, your injury, and long-term goals for your physical therapy and lifestyle.

Interview and Forms

Your physical therapist will use an evaluation form and interview to help develop a treatment plan. This may include questions regarding how and when your knee pain began and what increases or decreases your knee pain level. You will also be asked to rate your knee pain level with various movements, usually on a scale of zero to 10. 

Movement Evaluation

Your physical therapist will also assess your movements which may include some of the following:

  • Measure range of motion. Before beginning physical therapy, your physical therapist will use special instruments to determine how far your knee can bend or straighten. They will also periodically recheck your range of motion to monitor your progress and adjust your physical therapy program to ensure you optimize your recovery process and continue strengthening your body.
  • Gait evaluation. Your physical therapist will evaluate how you’re walking to watch for minor changes in motion at the knee in various phases of walking.
  • Palpation. Your physical therapist will feel around the knee for any abnormalities and to determine if any areas are painful to the touch.
  • Assess your balance. Your physical therapist will determine if your balance is impaired and causing excess strain or stress that may contribute to your knee pain.
  • Measure for swelling in your knee. Your physical therapist will measure and determine if your knee is experiencing swelling, which is common after a knee injury.
  • Specific movements. Depending upon your issue, your physical therapist will have you do particular maneuvers around your knee to help determine what may increase or decrease your pain levels and other pain-related problems.

Physical Therapy Exercises for Knee Pain

Once your physical therapist has evaluated you and your knee pain, they will create a customized physical therapy program utilizing targeted exercises to help increase your strength and improve your knee’s mobility.

Below are some examples of the types of exercises that your physical therapist may have you perform during your physical therapy sessions and at home.

  • Quadriceps stretch. Your hip flexors and tight quads may be to blame if you are experiencing knee pain after activities such as hiking or biking. Quadriceps stretch can help to release those areas; however, it’s essential not to force the stretch and work with a skilled physical therapist to ensure this is the best stretch for you. 
  • Stretching through your calf and heel. If your heels and calves are tight, they can bind at the back of the knee and cause you pain, and this exercise will help to release the lower leg area.
  • Hip flexor stretch. Sitting too much can cause your quads and hip flexor to become tight, putting a lot of pressure on the front of your knee.

These are just a few of the exercises your physical therapy may include. Whichever exercises your physical therapist selects for you and teaches you to do during therapy sessions or at home will help to improve your range of motion and increase your strength.

Exercises to Avoid With Knee Pain

If you’re doing an exercise that worsens your knee pain, it is best to avoid it.  Your pain should not increase dramatically or be shooting or sharp while strengthening and stretching the muscles around your knee. Exercises like the following may worsen your condition:

  • Running upstairs
  • Deep squats or deep lunges
  • High-impact activities such as running
  • Too many repetitions 

Additional Physical Therapies for Knee Pain

Other modalities can also decrease knee pain, including the following:

  • Kinesiology taping
  • Applying ice or heat to your knee
  • Massaging the soft tissue
  • Knee joint mobilization
  • Ultrasound
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care
  • TENS unit therapy

There are a wide variety of options for helping you to heal and improve your performance. If you are dealing with a sports injury, a physical therapist can help you recover faster and reduce your risk of reinjury.

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Knee Pain

Physical therapy offers long-term benefits and can drastically reduce your hip or knee pain. It will initially take time and effort on your part, and in the long run, it’ll be worth it. Physical therapy has been proven to help reduce knee and hip pain for many patients. 

There are several reasons why physical therapy is so effective for long-term hip or knee pain relief, such as:

  • You get to the root cause of your knee pain. A skilled physical therapist can help to identify the specific cause of your knee pain and create a targeted treatment program to help alleviate the source of the pain and improve your overall physical condition.
  • You improve your mobility and increase your strength. Working with a physical therapist utilizing specific exercises will significantly enhance the power of your muscles, which will better support your joints resulting in long-term relief from pain or joint irritation. 
  • Learning better ways to move your body. Sometimes the pain is related to unsupportive or unhealthy habitual body movements. Over time, people may adjust their movements due to an initial injury, and that compensation strains your joints and can lead to additional pain and injuries. An experienced physical therapist can identify movement patterns that have created pain in your knee, hips, or lower back. They can help you make healthy, supportive movements to protect your joints, relieve pain, and prevent further injury.
  • Encourage you to lead an active lifestyle. Knee or hip pain can affect your quality of life and reduce your physical activity level. Physical therapy can encourage you to lead a more active lifestyle and improve your quality of life by decreasing pain when exercising. Your physical therapist can help you regain mobility and strength and teach you the best way to exercise and reduce the risk of injury.

CoActiv Physical Therapy is Here to Help You

At CoActiv Physical Therapy,  we offer Orthopedic Rehab, support for runners and athletes, Dry Needling, and Post-Surgical support. So whether you are a triathlete struggling with knee pain, a mom who needs to strengthen her back muscles and learn healthier ways of moving, or a busy entrepreneur with neck and shoulder pain, our team of experts are here to help you reach your goals.

Contact us today, and we will create a personalized physical therapy treatment plan to get you on your feet and keep you moving!


Dr. Sabino Emil Cocos

CoActiv Physical Therapy

We Help Athletes And Active Adults Of Manatee And Sarasota County Move Better, Live Pain-Free, And Get Stronger Without Painkillers, Surgery, Or Injections