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When your knee hurts, it can be challenging or even impossible to carry out your daily routine. If you’re an athlete, knee pain can be especially disheartening and deliberating as it can stop you from competing. Are you an active adult who loves squatting and lunging, but you struggle with knee pain? When you don’t know the cause of your pain, it can be frustrating. Here are five of the most common reasons for knee pain, along with how physical therapy can help.

5 Common Types of Knee Pain in Active Adults and Athletes

Runner’s Knee

Although it’s called “runner’s knee”, this painful condition is not for runners only. Runner’s knee, which is known medically as patellofemoral pain syndrome, involves an injury in which the kneecap fails to run smoothly up and down the trochlea of its track within the knee joint.

The main symptom is pain that is located in the front of the kneecap or around the back of it. Bending the knee, walking, running, kneeling, squatting, stair climbing or arising from a chair can cause pain. The pain can intensify when walking downhill or downstairs. Although both genders can get runner’s knee, it mostly affects females, according to a Harvard Medical School publication.

Meniscus Tear

A meniscus tear is one of the most common types of knee problems resulting from cartilage injuries. Many people who suffer from this extremely painful injury develop the condition from playing football, basketball, and CrossFit. But you can also get a meniscus tear from non contact sports, such as track and volleyball, besides other activities that involve jumping and cutting. Older people are even more at risk for a meniscus tear because the meniscus grows weaker with age. In fact, 40 percent of people aged 65 and older have experienced a meniscus tear.

The main symptoms of a meniscus tear are painful clicking and popping in the knee and limited knee bending or straightening. Athletes will have pain with or struggle to even perform squats, lunges stairs and running. Contrary to popular belief, meniscus tears very rarely require surgery which is great news. Meniscus tears are best treated conservatively by addressing muscle imbalances, dry needling, and joint mobilization without ever having to see a surgeon.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Also known as ITBS or ITBS Band Syndrome, this pain is caused by overuse of the knee. It mostly occurs in athletes engaged in long-distance running, bicycling, weightlifting and other activities that require squatting repeatedly.

The main symptom is pain on the lateral side of a knee from inflammation. Other symptoms may include needle-like stinging or pricks. Disabling pain can result in climbing or descending steps or even when walking. The cause iliotibial band syndrome is often due to a muscle imbalance in the hip and knee joints that once addressed will treat this condition.

Patellar Tendinitis

Also called “jumper’s knee”, patellar tendinitis commonly occurs in athletes who play sports that entail a significant amount of jumping, such as volleyball and basketball. On the other hand, jumper’s knee can develop even in people not engaged in sports requiring jumping.

At first, the pain is felt only in the knee area when just starting an intense workout. Eventually, the pain gets worse, making it hard or impossible to do simple movements, such as getting up from a chair or climbing stairs. If this is left without treatment, the quadriceps tendon can become irritated complicating recovery. Usually, the first and best treatment is physical therapy to address muscle weakness or imbalances.

Pain Behind the Knee

Besides pain, which is the main symptom, other symptoms of pain behind the knee include throbbing, swelling, bruising, stiffness and weakness. If you experience popliteal pain after running downhill or squatting, you may have a popliteal injury.

The popliteus, which a tiny, short muscle behind the knee and above the calf, is unknown to most people until it becomes injured. This muscle is responsible for helping you bend your knee as well as keep your knee balanced, making it stable. In a small percent people, the popliteus can become tight and restrict the movement of the sciatic nerve. This can cause stubborn and constant nerve irritation which requires a different approach to treatment than addressing the popliteus muscle alone. Peak Physiotherapy and Performance focuses on providing you with a detailed assessment of symptoms to determine if the sciatic nerve is irritated to tailor treatment directly to your need.

Considerations and Warnings

  • The number one joint problem for people seeing their medical professionals is knee pain.
  • Knee pain can affect all ages.
  • Medical problems, such as arthritis, gout, metabolic disease, infections, and other conditions can result in knee pain.
  • Knee pain can range from mild to severe.
  • When exercising, if you have a pain increase of two points or more on a pain scale that’s 1 to 10, stop exercising and see a medical provider who knows and understand knee pain.
  • If an exercise causes knee pain or swelling lasting for two or more days, promptly reach out to a medical provider.  

Get Help for Your Knee Pain Today

You don’t have to continue to suffer from knee pain. At Peak Physiotherapy and Performance we treat knee pain in active adults and athletes every single day. After determining the cause of your problem, we use a wide range of techniques, such as dry needlingcorrective exercisejoint manipulationcupping and other therapies to get you back to doing the things you love, staying active without pain. Contact us today to schedule a free phone consultation.

About the Author

Dr. Andrew Junak is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board-Certified Orthopedic Specialist.  Dr. Junak received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Walsh University and completed his Orthopedic Specialist training at the Cleveland Clinic Orthopaedic Residency Program. He is the owner of Peak Physiotherapy and Performance, a physical therapy clinic in Canal Winchester, Ohio where he serves the local communities of Lancaster, Reynoldsburg, Grove City, Pickerington and Columbus. In his practice, Dr. Junak helps clients with jaw pain, neck pain, and headaches find relief without resorting to medications, injections, or surgery.

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