Overview

What is Knee Pain?

The knee joint is composed of three articulating bones; the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone) and fibula. Within this region lies articular cartilage which supports the knee joint and provides lubrication for fluid movement, ligaments which maintain stability, and muscles which function to move the knee. Pain in the knee region arises when the function or status of these structures are disturbed, often leading to decreased function and quality of life.

Types of Knee Pain

Due to the complex nature of the knee, painful conditions can be broken down into several categories based on their location.

Anterior Knee Pain

Pain in the anterior (front) aspect of the knee most commonly arises from the patellofemoral joint or the patellar tendon. Patellofemoral pain (PFP) refers to symptoms in and around the patella (knee cap) that originates from dysfunctional movement of the patella along the femur. This can occur due to mechanical overload of the tissue second to training errors, muscular weakness or dysfunction, sub-optimal hip and knee biomechanics or poor foot biomechanics.
Another condition which can present similarly to PFP is patellar tendinopathy. This condition, commonly referred to as ‘Jumper’s Knee’ occurs when the patellar tendon is overloaded, meaning it cannot tolerate the forces and stress it is currently subjected to.
Other sources of anterior knee pain are pre-patellar fat pad impingement, bursitis, quadriceps tendinopathy, patellofemoral instability or referred pain from the hip.

Medial Knee Pain

Pain along the medial (inner) aspect of your knee arises from various structures, depending on your age and background. In younger patients (<35), Patellofemoral pain, medial meniscus tears or tendon irritations are most likely to have occurred. Knee osteoarthritis is another likely source of patients older than 50 years.

Lateral Knee Pain

Pain about the lateral (outside) knee is a frequent problem, especially amongst distance runners. Pain in this region is most commonly due to Ilitotibial band friction syndrome (ITFBS), where the iliotibial band (ITB) rubs against the outer aspect of the femur as your bend and straighten your knee repetitively. Patellofemoral pain is another common source of lateral knee pain. More common sources in older populations are degenerative meniscus tears or osteoarthritis of the lateral knee compartment.

Posterior Knee Pain

Pain behind the knee (posterior) may actually originate from referred pain from the lumbar spine or the hip. Alternatively, hamstring or calf muscle/tendon injuries are common in this area, particularly in sportspeople. If there is a palpable, swollen region sitting directly behind the knee joint, then a collection of fluid known as a Baker’s Cyst may be the cause.

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Chronic Knee Pain Symptoms

Chronic knee conditions can cause long term pain, sensitivity or weakness which affects one or both knees. Chronic knee pain has a significant impact on function and quality of life, and can pose a significant challenge to overcome. The most common source of chronic knee pain is a degenerative condition known as osteoarthritis (OA), which affects 1 in 11 Australians. Additionally, load-related conditions such as patellar tendinopathy or patellofemoral pain can transition into chronic conditions if not managed appropriately.

Common symptoms of chronic knee pain include:

  • Pain lasting longer than 3 months
  • Constant dull ache
  • Sharp shooting pains which worsen with activity
  • Recurring swelling of the knee joint after activity
  • Mechanical symptoms such as clicking, catching or locking
  • Pain at rest

Knee Pain Causes

As the knee joint is so complex, and the knee pain experience is not the same for everyone, it is important that contributing factors are identified in your physical assessment. This will help guide a successful rehabilitation program to achieve the best outcome. Some common factors relating to knee pain include:

  • Acute trauma (contact or non-contact)
  • Repetitive stress or overuse injuries
  • Tightening of the lateral knee muscles
  • Poor patellar tracking
  • Poor Hip stability
  • Poor Foot mechanics
  • Suboptimal Exercise technique
  • Age related degeneration
  • Bodyweight

Knee Pain Diagnosis

Allied Health professionals are well placed to provide an initial assessment and diagnosis of your knee pain. A clear and accurate diagnosis of the injury is important in order to guide treatment to achieve the best outcome for you. Firstly, a thorough history and subjective report of your symptoms is taken to steer the physical assessment. From here, your Practitioner will assess your movement and function, hip and knee joint strength and range of motion, and look at any specific orthopaedic tests that may be indicated based on your presentation. Additionally a biomechanical running assessment  may be suitable if your pain is running-related. Similarly, a Podiatrist can provide a Footwear and Gait Assessment if your practitioner believes this is indicated.

Knee Pain Treatment

Physiotherapy for Knee Pain

The aim of Physiotherapy treatment is to improve your understanding of the knee condition, remove the potential fear associated with it and empower you to maintain the activities you enjoy. Physiotherapy has been shown to be extremely effective for most cases of knee pain. The approach to treatment will depend on the physical assessment outcomes, but will always be specifically tailored to your condition, presentation and health goals. Physiotherapists can utilise a combination of manual therapy techniques including massage, joint mobilisation, dry needling and taping to help relieve your symptoms. A comprehensive exercise program is often utilised to build the robustness and strength of the knee joint and its surrounding muscles, which allows the knee to function optimally.

Sports Massage for Knee Pain

Sports massage can be an effective treatment approach for relieving for knee pain. Massage can help improve muscle and joint function by increasing muscle length and reducing tension. Additionally, improved circulation and blood flow to the affected area can assist with the healing process.

Podiatry for Knee Pain

Depending on the outcomes of your physical assessment, podiatry input may be suggested to aid the rehabilitation process. Podiatry treatment for your knee often incorporates addressing any suboptimal foot biomechanics, ensuring your footwear are appropriate to you, and potentially prescribing orthotics.

How To Prevent Knee Pain When Working Out

Knee pain can be a challenging obstacle to overcome, however, the best way to tackle it is to prevent its occurrence in the first place. Some strategies you can employ to do so include:

  1. Monitoring training factors: ensure training spikes and troughs are kept to a minimum. Listen to your body and avoid sudden changes in training factors (intensity, volume, time etc.).
  2. Improving hip and thigh muscle strength minimises joint stresses and strains and reduces the likelihood of suffering an injury.
  3. Correct technique while in the gym or performing challenging exercises.
  4. A biomechanical running assessment to determine whether your running style may predispose you to knee pain.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

There is currently limited evidence to support the implementation of a stretching program as an effective treatment for knee pain. However, if your Practitioner identifies any tight muscles in the physical assessment they may prescribe specific stretches to target these.

Orthotics may be appropriate for you depending on your foot biomechanics, foot posture and footwear. There is evidence to suggest that the use of orthotics can be an effective treatment method for knee pain, particularly patellofemoral pain.

Ice can be a good pain reliever for knee pain, particularly if in the acute stage or acutely aggravated following a bout of exercise.

Knee pain after running is a common symptom of repetitive-stress type injuries, where the stress on the knee is too much for it to handle. To counter this, you’ll want to modify your training to a level that does not elicit post-exercise soreness, at least in the short term. This will allow the recovery process to begin, and you will steadily progress from here. This principle is called ‘relative rest’. Other post-exercise strategies can include ice and an effective cool down.

The duration of your knee pain varies on a case by case basis, and will depend on the type of condition and the severity. Acute strains may take 2-4 weeks for pain to subside, whereas more chronic conditions such as knee osteoarthritis may require 6-12 months (or more) for the pain to resolve.

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Our locations

Hawthorne

PEAK Hawthorne opened in 2012 and was extended and renovated in 2020. You see the same team whether we see you at Hawthorne or one of our other clinics.  Hawthorne offers private treatment rooms and a spacious exercise area incorporating the latest equipment and technology, unrestricted single level access and off-street parking. We also provide HICAPS for real-time private health claiming.

Our locations

New Farm

PEAK New Farm opened in August 2019. You see the same team whether we see you at New Farm or one of our other clinics. New Farm offers private treatment rooms and a spacious exercise area incorporating the latest equipment and technology, unrestricted single level access and off-street parking. We also provide HICAPS for real-time private health claiming.

Hawthorne

Address
5/171 Riding Road,
Hawthorne, QLD, 4171
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Opening Hours -
6 days per week
  • Monday - Friday: 7:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Saturday: 7:00 am - 1:00 pm

To make a booking outside of business hours, please use our form by clicking here.

New Farm

Address
1/15 Lamington Street,
New Farm, QLD, 4005
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Opening Hours -
6 days per week
  • Monday - Thursday: 2:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  • Friday - Saturday: 7:00 am - 1:00 pm

To make a booking outside of business hours, please use our form by clicking here.