Knee pain is a common health condition in Australia that affects approximately 19% of its population. Whether it comes from developmental stress, exercise-induced sports injuries, or knee osteoarthritis, we all know someone who has and probably is suffering from knee pain.
Most people will experience one of the many issues that can lead to knee pain, so let’s look at some common issues and injuries and how our osteopaths here at MPR Health can help.
What Is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy aims to treat the body as a whole and not just the symptoms. Osteopaths treat your muscular & skeletal system and its relationship to the nervous system, treating people suffering from back pain & neck pain, knee pain, headaches and migraines.
They look at how these can be linked to issues elsewhere in your body. For example, if you have knee pain then an osteopath would examine your foot & ankle or your hip. It is all about getting back to living life without the persistent niggles stopping you from doing what you love.
How Does Osteopathy Help Knee Pain?
Osteopathy tends to have a holistic approach to treatment in which we look for the source of pain rather than trying to treat only symptoms. This means we may use manual movements to diagnose and treat problems within your knee joint; this includes muscle tension, tightness, cramping, stress or strain in bones or other tissue/tendons supporting major muscle groups, ligaments, tendons and arteries.
Osteopathy is also a great way to address biomechanical issues affecting your knees. This could include looking at how you walk and run and whether muscle imbalances or weaknesses in your legs can lead to injury or pain.
Addressing The Underlying Cause Of Knee Pain
The cause of painful knees is not always easily identified, but several factors can contribute to this condition. An osteopath will work with you to determine the underlying causes of your knee pain and develop a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.
Common Causes Of Knee Pain
The knee is a complex joint that is made up of many bones, ligaments and tendons. When these structures become inflamed or damaged, they can cause pain in your knee and lead to other conditions such as tendonitis and bursitis.
Some of the most common causes of knee pain are as follows:
History of injury, disease, age, or misalignment.
Injuries to the knee can cause scar tissue to form, which can result in pain as well as restriction of movement. If you have a history of injury or disease in your knees, they may not move efficiently and this could result in discomfort when walking or exercising. Age and wear-and-tear on your joints can also lead to symptoms such as stiffness, loss of mobility, and pain.
Whether you’re an athlete who has made a slight change in your training schedule or just bought a new pair of shoes for the walk to work, patella tendonitis can be a difficult and frustrating issue, seemingly stemming from nothing. With pain commonly presenting at the front of the knee just below the knee cap, patella tendonitis rarely has any injury or trauma that caused it.
Our practitioners at MPR Health will take a detailed history to pinpoint the cause of the tendonitis. This complex history is integral in ensuring we can control any aggravating activities while treatment focuses on treatment to settle the pain and strengthen the knee.
The symptoms of Patella Tendonitis are:
- pain in the front of the knee, directly below the kneecap
- pain that gets worse when you bend your knee or squat down
- pain that is often worse after exercising
- a feeling of weakness in your knee, especially with running or jumping activities.
Osgood-Schlatter disease is a condition that causes pain at the tibial tuberosity (the bump on the front of your tibia). This bump is located just below your kneecap.
The symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease are:
- pain behind or around your knee joint worsens when you bend or straighten your leg;
- pain after exercising or playing sports;
- tenderness over the tibial tuberosity (a bony protrusion on the front side of your shinbone near where it connects to your lower leg). You might even feel like there’s an extra bone in this area!
Osteoarthritis and degeneration
If you’re experiencing knee pain, it may be because of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of knee pain and is a degenerative condition that occurs when the cartilage in your joints wears away. Without this protective covering, bones rub against each other and cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
The most common symptoms of Osteoarthritis are:
- pain and swelling that gets worse when after exercise and gets better after rest
- pain in your knee, especially when you bend it or straighten it
- you may also feel pain inside or outside of the joint
- difficulty kneeling or squatting down (for example, getting up from sitting)
- knee swelling and stiffness that gets worse over time
Osteopathic Treatment for Knee Pain
The most common treatment for knee pain methods include:
- Soft tissue techniques are performed by gently stretching, massaging, and manipulating the muscles around your knee. There are multiple soft-tissue techniques available, but all of them aim to improve blood flow to this area and alleviate pain.
- Joint mobilization involves applying gentle pressure to your knee joint as it moves through its full range of motion to increase flexibility and reduce stiffness. Most patients find that this therapy can effectively reduce pain caused by arthritis or injuries related to wear and tear on ligaments around the knee joint.
- Joint manipulation is another osteopathic treatment that applies force with a controlled speed for your joints to move more easily without becoming stuck due to injury.
When to see an Osteopath
If you feel any of the following symptoms, it may be time to book an appointment with an osteopath:
- Pain in and around the knee joint that gets worse when climbing stairs or going up/down stairs.
- A feeling of knee instability or “giving way” (for example, stepping off a curb).
- Pain in the knee when walking or running.
- Pain in the back of the knee, behind where your calf muscle attaches to your shin bone (tibia).
- Pain when sitting for long periods (for example, driving).
- A feeling of knee stiffness or tightness, especially when trying to straighten your leg.
- Knee pain that comes on gradually over time and does not get better with rest.
- Knee pain that wakes you up at night.
Exercises and Stretches for Knee Pain
The best way to prevent pain in the knees is to strengthen the muscles around your knees. A good place to start is with exercises that target your quadriceps and hamstrings, which can help improve knee function.
Some basic exercises you can do at home include:
- Standing, single-leg squats (start with 10 reps on each leg and work your way up to 20)
- Lunges (again, start with 10 reps on each leg and work your way up to 20)
- Step ups (hold dumbbells in each hand for added weight if needed)
If knee pain stops you from standing up, here are some stretches and exercises you can do in bed.
While there are many ways to treat knee pain, an osteopathic approach can be especially effective. This is because it focuses on the whole body rather than just your knee injury itself – so if there are other injuries or imbalances in your body that could be contributing to your pain, they will be addressed as well.