We all have experienced some knee pain during our life. Knee pain occurs when some of the structures around the knee joint are stressed or damaged. The regular functioning of the joint is then compromised and a vicious cycle with chronic pain begins. Moreover, most of the bodyweight is located above knees. It is easy to understand than that knee joint needs to be strong and 100% functioning to carry it. The knee joint works continuously during the day so that even walking can be a problem sometimes.
Common knee pain and injuries
We can divide knee pains into two big categories: Pain from joint stress and overuse, and pain from structural damage.
Pain from joint stress and overuse
The knee joint is composed of bones ( femoral and tibial condyles and patella), cartilage, ligaments and muscles. Each one of these structures can get inflamed and generate pain if exposed to an overuse. Overuse occurs when there is an increase of the effort demand to our knees without being prepared. For example, doing a long run after a period of inactivity can generate knee pain because some of the structures react and get inflamed. Overuse can also occur if there is an imbalance in the use of the knee joint components. When something like that happens, some structures work more than other ones and get inflamed and deteriorate sooner, generating pain. It occurs, for example, when we do a bad squat or if we fall inside with the knee during a run. That’s why the technique of exercises is extremely important and need to be checked by a physiotherapist.
Pain from structural damage
Continuous overuse or trauma can lead to structural damage. It can occur to a bone, causing a stress fracture or most commonly to soft tissue causing meniscus tears, cartilage degeneration and/or ligament or tendon ruptures. The pain is usually more severe and less bearable. Trauma is also followed by the typical signs of acute inflammation: redness, swelling, bruising, heat in addition to pain. In this case, an expert physiotherapist can help you minimise the damage and the pain with the use of taping, ice and with precious advice. They can also assess which structure is involved in an immediate cure.
Exercises to help relief Knee pain
Several exercises can have a positive impact on improving knee pain and injury
A squat is one of the best exercises for the knee for many reasons. When we perform a squat we train everything we need to have a healthy knee. During a squat, we use both anterior and posterior muscles asking them to get stronger, which helps create a strong balance around the joint during what is a complex movement. We also use most of the range of motion of the knee allowing the meniscus to move back and forward and the joint fluid to flow all around the joint. It is perfect for getting stronger quads and hamstrings or if we want to fight a tendinitis problem. We also train knee stability and control in a safe position for the body.
If you want to focus more on one leg stability you can move to a lunge. This exercise is perfect if there is an imbalance on quads strength and stability between the two sides. With the lunge, you are obliged to strengthen on the weaker side and you can’t compensate with the stronger one. When a lunge gets too easy you can move to a 1 leg Bulgarian squat.
After a trauma
When recovering from trauma it is important to follow a proper rehabilitation program with careful progressions. It’s better to start with isometric exercises (straight leg raise – straight lateral raise – isometric squat). Continue then with exercises in “closed chain” (half and full squat) to get stronger and help improve the stability without stressing the knee too much. Finish then with “open-chain” exercises (leg extension – leg curl) to maximise muscle strength and to challenge maximum knee stability.
Latest evidence shows that a good physiotherapy program is better than surgery or steroid injections for most knee problems, including osteoarthrosis.