Knee Injuries

Quadricep and Hamstring Strains

Quadriceps are the muscles in the front of the leg, connecting the hip with the side and front of the knee joint.  Hamstrings are the muscles in the back of the thigh that connect the hip to the back of the knee joint.  The most common cause for these strains is muscle overload, which is when the muscle is stretched or challenged beyond capacity.   There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of these strains occurring: muscle tightness, imbalance where one muscle is stronger than another, weak muscles, or fatigued muscles.  If the strain occurs during an activity, a sudden sharp pain in the front or back of the thigh, depending which muscle group it is, will be felt.  Other symptoms include swelling, bruising and weakness that can last for several weeks.

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Physical therapy will work to improve range of motion and strength.

Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition in which the joint cartilage slowly wears away.  Symptoms develop gradually and may include pain, sensation of knee buckling, stiffness, swelling, and increase pain after activity such as walking.  Weather patterns, such as precipitation, increased humidity, or temperature drops may also heighten pain levels.

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Physical therapy will employ techniques to reduce pain and symptoms as well as increase function despite the arthritis.

Patellar Tendonitis

The patellar tendon connects the patella, or kneecap, with the tibia and is responsible for aiding the thigh muscles in straightening the leg out.  This condition involves the inflammation of this tendon which weakens it and small tears may also occur.  It usually occurs as a result of activities like running or jumping.  When the tendon actually tears, a popping sensation is usually felt.  Symptoms include swelling, bruising, tenderness, cramping, difficulty straightening the knee and pain while walking.

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Tears can often be corrected via surgery but the tendonitis is less severe.  Often a brace is worn during healing and specific exercises will be completed to restore strength and range of motion.

MCL Tear

Like the ACL, the MCL plays large role in stabilizing the knee joint.  It runs down side of the knee joint, on the inside part of the leg, and connects the femur with the tibia.  Most often, these tears occur due to rough contact that pushes the outside of the knee inwards.  Pain will be felt on the inside of the knee and there will be sensations of the knee “giving way”.  Swelling is also a common reaction.

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Treatment does not always require surgery, but it can.  Physical therapy will concentrate on strengthening the joint as well as muscles supporting it to increase overall strength and motion.

ACL Tear

The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, runs diagonally through the knee, keeping the tibia (shin bone) from sliding forward.  This tear usually occurs with a quick sudden movement such as rapid deceleration while the knee is bending, collision, pivoting quickly, or awkward landings.  Immediately after the ACL is torn, the knee feels unstable and pain and swelling occurs.  After a few hours, knee swelling is massive, there is ample pain and tenderness, and a full range of motion is lost.

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The majority of the time, treatment requires surgery.  Progressive physical therapy can attempt to restore the knee to its original function and strength and prevention exercises will also be taught so the patient knows how to keep the knee stablized.

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