Whether you’re trying to stay physically active or just making your way around your workplace, for the 25% of adults that develop knee pain, movement and daily life can quickly become difficult and uncomfortable. So when it comes to getting help for your knee pain, a physiotherapist and an exercise physiologist can both help.
With both physiotherapists and exercise physiologists on our team, and both professions playing valuable roles in optimising the recovery following a knee injury, here’s a look into what each respective profession does and how they can help you.
Physiotherapists are board-registered health professionals who work with you to maintain and improve your health and wellness, reduce pain, recover from injury, increase mobility, and prevent further injury. Physios have expertise in understanding of how the the body works to produce and maintain healthy movement. A primary part of this knowledge is understanding the injuries, disabilities, conditions and disorders that affect the body, how to diagnose them, and how to manage them.
While a physio’s role may seem as simple as being able to identify and treat an isolated problem, the complex and multifaceted nature of how the body works means that this process is complex. An injury in one area can have effects on different parts of the body, and not just physically but neurologically, too. There is great skill required to be able to step back and understand these effects and connections, and then map out a unique treatment plan.
Physios work with people at all stages of life and they will employ a unique treatment approach depending on a person’s age, as well as their medical conditions, lifestyle and their goals. Physiotherapists also understand that the nature of pain is multifactorial and will help identify factors that may contributing to a person’s symptoms.
When it comes to your knee pain, your physiotherapist will start with a comprehensive assessment to diagnose the cause of your knee pain, identify the associated risk factors, and then create a custom treatment plan to relieve the symptoms, rehabilitate the injury or condition, and reduce the likelihood of it recurring in the future. This may involve using:
- Hands-on therapies such as mobilisation and massage
- Knee taping or bracing to help with stability and support
- Electrotherapeutic or adjunctive therapies such as dry needling or shockwave to assist efficient recovery
- Education and advice on best management principles and prevention strategies
- Motor control retraining to assist with pain and improving function
- Exercise prescription to improve pain, improve function, and prevent injury
An important part of a physiotherapist’s certification is their commitment to ongoing learning. With new research being published daily that helps guide best-practice techniques, you can be assured that your physiotherapist is always staying up-to-date and using evidence-based assessment and treatment techniques to help optimise your outcomes.
Causes of knee pain that our physiotherapists often help manage include:
- Patellofemoral pain
- Patella tendinopathy
- Knee ligament injuries
- Cruciate and collateral ligament injuries
- Meniscus (cartilage) injuries
- Patella dislocation
- Osgood Schlatter’s
- Iliotibial band syndrome
- Rehab and return-to-sport after surgery
You don’t need a referral to see a physio, and your physio will explain every aspect of your treatment plan. As you move past the acute stage of your injury, your physio treatment plan will also reflect this, ensuring you continue to receive the best care at the right time.
An exercise physiologist is a qualified health professional that has the skills, experience and knowledge about the complex ways that the body responds to exercise. While on the outside, we may see exercise as simply getting up and moving, the reality is that the biological and mechanical processes occurring during exercise, and how our body is responding, is incredibly complex, which is why exercise physiology is a four-year Bachelor’s degree.
Exercise physiologists know how to leverage exercise to optimise a person’s health and well-being, and how to achieve this safely and effectively in the context of a wide range of injuries and medical conditions. More than the physical, your exercise physio can also help you redefine your relationship with exercise. Exercise is often thought of as a means of meeting fitness goals, being set aside for those hoping to get to their ‘peak’. The reality is very different – fitness and exercise can and should be a lifelong, easygoing companion for health without the competition, numbers on a scale or striving towards an ultimate goal. If a goal is needed, it can be to simply be able to enjoy each day with as little holding you back as possible – which is what an exercise physiologist helps you achieve during your rehab.
When it comes to knee pain, your exercise physiologist will show you the best way to use exercise for your unique body to reduce the symptoms and discomfort associated with your knee pain, and then help prevent it from recurring in the future. Exercise has a variety of benefits for knee pain, including:
- Strengthening the muscles that support and stabilise the knee
- Improving flexibility and knee joint health
- Improving balance and coordination
- Reducing your risk of falling and further pain and injury, if this was the cause of your knee pain
- Aiding weight management to reduce stress on joints
Beyond this, exercise can also help you with other health indicators such as reducing stress, anxiety and blood pressure, supporting your heart and brain health, and improving your sleep quality.
Causes of knee pain that our exercise physiologists often help manage include:
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome
- Patella tendinopathy
- Knee ligament injuries (cruciate ligaments and collateral ligaments)
- Meniscus injuries and tears
- Rehab and return-to-sport after surgery
Working with an exercise physiologist starts with an assessment to understand the likely causes of your knee pain, the state and strength of your lower legs, your unique treatment needs, and creating your tailored exercise plan. Your exercise physiologist will consider what kinds of exercise you enjoy, and what will be most beneficial for you and your pain in the long-term.
No experience or fitness knowledge is needed to work with an exercise physiologist – they will demonstrate everything and check your technique. You’ll then continue to see your exercise physiologist periodically, re-evaluating your knee pain and progress, modifying movements where improvement is noted, if pain is getting in the way, or your circumstances change. They’ll let you know when you should be increasing your exercise intensity, and teaching you how to make the best choices for your body when it comes to exercise.
So, Who Should You See For Knee Pain Treatment?
Both physiotherapists and exercise physiologists play an important role in the treatment of knee pain, often working together to help attain the best outcomes for their patients. If you have knee pain that has not yet been seen or diagnosed, a physiotherapist is your first point of call. This is because exercise physiologists do not diagnose the precise cause of a problem or injury, but work with an existing diagnosis to help achieve the best outcomes using evidence-based exercise, which is provided by your physio.
After your assessment diagnosis, your physio can then refer you to our knowledgeable exercise physiologists to continue your exercise-based rehab and work with you to get you back to full strength and function.