Joining a fitness class at your gym, starting Pilates or taking up social dancing are all great ways to stay healthy and active, but what if you start to feel pain in your knee during any of these activities?
Knee pain can happen suddenly or arise slowly with no obvious incident.
The Knee Joint
The knee joint performs two apparently simple actions; straightening and bending the lower limb.
However the knee is actually comprised of two joints, the tibiofemoral joint where the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia) meet and the patellofemoral joint where the knee cap moves with the thigh bone. This creates a modified hinge joint, imperative for functional movement as it allows for slight rotation through the knee, ‘locks’ the knee to provide support whilst weight bearing and ‘unlocks’ it for movements such as bending, sitting and jumping. The knee joint supports most of the weight of the upper body, making it prone to acute injuries and complications due to overuse.
Acute knee injuries
Acute knee injuries are usually due to falling, jumping or landing incorrectly, abnormal twisting of the knee or from a direct blow to the knee. You may experience immediate swelling, a ‘crack’ or ‘pop’ sound and pain in or around the knee. After an acute injury the best principle to follow is the RICER method:
R= Rest the area
I= Ice for 20 minutes every 2 hours (for the first 48 hours)
C= Compression around the area using an elastic bandage to help reduce swelling
E= Elevate the affected area, above your heart as often as possible
R= Referral to see a GP or Physiotherapist.
A physiotherapist can work with you to determine your type of knee injury and give you an estimated time to recovery. They can also help to reduce your knee pain, improve your movement and formulate a plan for rehabilitation, to help you successfully return to your fitness activities.
Overuse knee injuries
Knee pain that comes on slowly over time with no obvious incident, feels worse after class or activity or just won’t settle is usually due to overuse. Repetitive stress on the joint and tissues of the knee can lead to irritation and inflammation resulting in pain. This can come and go or slowly build up to a constant ache. You may also experience locking or catching of the knee, swelling, pain with squatting or twisting, pressure inside the knee joint or tenderness around the knee. Your knee may feel unstable and give way when weight bearing.
Overuse injuries are managed differently to an acute injury. When you visit a physiotherapist they may use manual therapies such as soft tissue work and joint mobilisations, dry needling, taping to offload overworked structures and suggest improvements to your footwear to ease your knee pain. Most importantly they will assess your biomechanics and put together a targeted home exercise program, or work with you to modify your class routine or gym work to improve your technique and facilitate recovery.
Repetitive activities such as stair climbs, jumping, running and bike riding may contribute to your knee pain, as well as poor movement patterns, unsupportive footwear or an imbalance in strength and control through the hips and lower limbs. A sudden increase or change in your workout can also irritate knee pain.
Working with a Physiotherapist to improve your gym, dance or Pilates technique, enables you to use correct biomechanics and control to ensure you are gaining the most benefit from your activities without putting yourself at risk of further injury.
Make an appointment at one of our clinics in North Adelaide or Mount Barker to help you identify the cause of your knee pain and get you back to being active as soon as possible!
Jacki Eads, myPhysioSA Physiotherapist and Pilates Physiotherapist Mount Barker