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What is Knee Physiotherapy?

By Alex Terris
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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Knee physiotherapy refers to a broad range of different techniques and exercises used to prevent or cure knee problems. These can range from mild patella-femoral pain to rehabilitation after a total knee replacement operation. Knee physiotherapy commonly involves exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee. Ultrasound, sports massage and other techniques may also be used to aid recovery and speed up the process.

The knee joint is one of the most commonly injured, which is why knee physiotherapy is important. The goal of physiotherapy is to allow the knee to function correctly and with as little pain as possible. For straightforward injuries, the ultimate target will be to return the person to full everyday use, including sports, while after a major knee operation it may be to reduce the pain to an acceptable level.

Injuries which are commonly treated by a physiotherapist include jumper’s knee, patellofemoral pain and runner’s knee. Physiotherapy is also required after injuries to the anterior, lateral and medial ligaments of the knee. Full cruciate ligament ruptures usually require surgery which is followed by a period of intense physiotherapy to regain muscle strength.

A general physiotherapist will usually be trained in knee function and rehabilitation. For sports injuries that are caused by overuse,seeing a specialist may be required. Problems with the knee are often caused by muscle imbalances and so the goal of treatment is to restore balance to the surrounding muscles. For example, the inner thigh muscle is commonly weak, which causes the outer muscle to pull the patella out of alignment.

The muscles directly attaching to the knee joint are often the main focus of knee physiotherapy. Hip muscles are also important, however, as they control the femur and indirectly the tracking of the patellar. For this reason modern knee physiotherapy often involves a wide range of exercises designed to activate and develop muscles of the leg and hip in order to correct tracking problems and provide stability.

Stretching is often part of a knee rehabilitation routine. Muscles such as the hamstring, quadriceps and calf muscles help to support the knee joint and can cause pain or other problems when inflexible. For example, if the quadriceps muscles are tight then this can put excess strain on the patella tendon which is directly below the knee and eventually lead to patellar tendinitis. Flexibility in the hip muscles is also important for healthy function of the knee.

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Discussion Comments
By honeybees — On Oct 02, 2011

My son has always been an athlete and has participated in many sports in his lifetime. Because of this, he has had torn cartilage in his knee and had surgery more than once on his knees.

There have been many times he has been encouraged to give up playing sports, but this hasn't happened yet. He has cut back quite a bit and spends most of his time on those he likes the best.

Because of his love for sports, he wants to be a coach and I can see where this would be a good fit for him. He is very familiar with what is involved, and this includes physiotherapy for knees.

By andee — On Oct 01, 2011

My husband has worked construction most of his life, and because of this has really bad knees. His doctor has told him that he will eventually need to have both of his knees replaced.

He does do some physiotherapy exercises for his knee to try to help with the pain, but there isn't much there to work with. It sounds like it is mostly bone on bone with not much cartilage left.

I am sure after he has the replacements done, these exercises will be even more beneficial for him. They will probably hurt quite a bit at first, but as he gets his knee strength back, will get easier to do.

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