By Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson
The knee is the largest joint in the human body. The knee is made up of the end of the thigh bone (femur) meeting the top of the shin bone (tibia) and knee cap (patellar) meeting the front surface of the femur. Anatomically, the name for the two joints within the knee are tibiofemoral and patellofemoral. The stability of the knee joint is heavily reliant upon ligamentous structures and muscles.
Injury/trauma (e.g. sports), overuse, genetic conditions and degeneration are common causes of knee pain.
How to initially treat a knee injury is heavily dependent on the type of injury.
Rest may be beneficial in many cases of knee pain as this can minimise further damage in acute injuries and provide a healing opportunity. Rest may involve complete disuse of the knee (crutches or bracing may be required), or may require active rest (gentle range of motion and walking encouraged). The type of rest will depend on the severity and type of knee complaint you have, so you should ask your health professional of what will be most beneficial for you.
In acute sporting injuries, often icing can be beneficial. Within the first 24-48 hours after the injury, applying a covered icepack to the region can help reduce inflammation and scar tissue formation. In overuse type complaints, icing should be considered after a period of aggravation or use of fatigued structures. Topical anti-inflammatory gels may also be helpful in these circumstances.
Gentle range of motion exercises are often useful in knee complaints as they aim to maintain and improve knee joint range of motion, especially in degenerative type knee complaints. Specific stretching through the legs may also be recommended to address muscular tension around the knee. You should consider talking to your health professional about the best ways to do this.
Strapping or bracing of the knee joint may help during repair and return to sport phases of recovery.
A health practitioner will use information about your pain/injury and the timeline since the onset to help with narrowing potential diagnoses. They will assess structures in your knee for stability and the joints quality of motion. In some cases, you may be sent for further imaging to assist in diagnosis.
Once your knee complaint has been diagnosed, a customised treatment plan can be delivered. Hands-on therapy will aim to decrease muscular tension, improve joint range of motion and correct lower limb biomechanics. Many knee complaints will require exercise rehabilitation prescription to complement hands-on therapy. A part of each session may entail learning how to correctly perform exercises.