Certain regions of the body are simply more likely to be painful than others, and the knees are very high on this list. Knee pain ranks behind just back pain as the second most common condition involving the muscles and bones, and in adults aged 65 and older, it is the greatest cause of disability.
The knee is the largest and one of the most complex joints in the body, and this complexity is a main reason why it is so vulnerable to injury. The nearly constant use of the knee during all standing, walking, and running activities also plays a major role.
The knee is a hinge joint that’s responsible for bearing weight and allowing the leg to extend and bend back and forth with minimal side–to–side motion. It primarily joins the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia), but also includes the kneecap (patella) and other lower leg bone (fibula). The patella is a small, triangle–shaped bone that sits in the front of the knee within the quadriceps muscle, and it’s lined with the thickest layer of cartilage in the body to protect it from the significant forces of regular movements.
If pain develops in the knee or thigh, you may be unsure what to do next. For mild pain that’s manageable, it’s common—and recommended—to wait a week or two and see if it subsides on its own or after trying some pain–relieving modalities like ice. But for severe knee or thigh pain and pain that persists or gets worse over several weeks, you should seek out help from a medical professional.
Physical therapists are movement experts who can effectively treat most types of knee and thigh pain with a comprehensive treatment approach that focuses on addressing deficits with targeted interventions. Certain causes of knee pain, however, may require the expertise of other healthcare professionals to safely manage. To help you differentiate between the two, below are some of the most common knee diagnoses that physical therapists treat, followed by a few key red flags that suggest an underlying condition is present that requires additional care:
We hope this guidance helps you determine whether physical therapy is the right call if you’re experiencing knee or thigh pain. In our next post, we provide you with 4 effective exercises you can perform on your own that will help to prevent and treat this type of pain.