This October, we're celebrating National Physical Therapy Month once again. The national campaign, which has been held annually since 1981, is meant to increase public awareness about physical therapy and to highlight the various ways in which the lives of current and prospective patients can improve from treatment. We fully support these efforts and we're doing our part by reviewing the wide range of conditions that physical therapists can effectively manage in each region of the body.
In this post, we're focusing on the knee, ankle, and foot by looking at some of the most common issues that can develop in these areas.
The knee is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body. It's also incredibly vulnerable to injury, as knee pain ranks behind just back pain as the second most common condition involving the muscles and bones. Knee pain is the leading cause of disability in adults aged 65 years and older—with knee osteoarthritis being responsible in most of these cases—while various tears are more likely to occur in active individuals. Here's a look at some of the most common conditions that physical therapists treat:
The feet and ankles have the tall task of withstanding the weight of the entire body, and as a result, injuries are also quite prevalent in this region. Foot and ankle issues are particularly common in active individuals who engage in lots of running and/or jumping activities. Below are some of the most common ankle and foot conditions that physical therapists frequently treat:
Physical therapists regularly see these and many other painful conditions that involve the knees, feet, and ankles. As with other regions of the body, they utilize a variety of tools and techniques in tailor–made treatment programs that are based on the type of injury and the patient's unique abilities, needs, and goals. Most programs will include specific strengthening and stretching exercises, pain–relieving modalities, manual (hands–on) therapy techniques, sport–specific exercises for athletes, education, and guidance on how to modify activities to avoid further damage.
Research has shown that physical therapy can significantly improve patient outcomes and help them avoid surgery in certain cases. One study found that manual therapy led to clear improvements in physical function and reduced pain in patients with plantar fasciitis, while a robust review of studies found that physical therapy led to outcomes similar to surgery for various types of tendinitis, including Achilles and patellar tendinitis. Other research has shown that physical therapy leads to similar improvements in physical function when compared to surgery for patients with meniscus tears, and that physical therapy is also more cost–effective than surgery for these tears.
In our final post, we'll look at how physical therapy can also help manage other miscellaneous conditions throughout the body.