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Why can't I bend my knee without pain?

Updated: Apr 25

See how a physical therapist can help to lessen the pain from bending your knee

In literary and historical terms, 'bending the knee' can seem like a bad thing, and it can be very painful. As a turn of phrase, to 'bend the knee' is to demonstrate subservience to somebody in a position of power. This can cause emotional and psychological pain.

However, that isn't the kind of pain from 'bending the knee' that we're talking about in this article! Here, we'll be discussing actual physical knees and the real, bodily pain that people sometimes feel when they bend their knee joints.

If you've got legs, a huge amount of human movement requires bending of the knee. From walking and running to swimming and even driving a car, the knee is one of the most used joints in the entire human body. However, when the knee joint has been damaged, possibly through a knee injury or even multiple knee injuries, the result can be severe pain.

In this article, we'll try to answer your questions about being unable to bend your knee without pain.

For example, we'll cover subjects like:

● Common knee injuries, ranging from minor to severe injury

● How physical therapy can lessen pain when you bend your knee

● The best way to seek treatment for knee pain

Our team at Align Health Collective has years of experience treating knee pain. Whether it's a torn ACL, torn meniscus, swelling, or even if you're just looking to prevent further injury and sustain normal movement, we're ready to help.

What is knee joint?

To understand knee pain when bending the knee, it's important to have a basic understanding of the knee joint's anatomy and function. The knee joint is the largest joint in the body, connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia) and the kneecap (patella). The knee joint also contains several important components that help support its function.

The knee joint is held together by four primary ligaments: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). These ligaments provide stability to the knee joint, allowing it to move smoothly and efficiently.

In addition to ligaments, the knee joint also contains two important pieces of cartilage: the meniscus and the patellar cartilage. The meniscus is a c-shaped piece of cartilage that cushions the knee joint, while the patellar cartilage covers the kneecap's underside.

When you bend your knee, the joint moves through a series of motions, including flexion (bending), extension (straightening), and rotation. These movements are made possible by the knee joint's many components, including the ligaments, cartilage, and surrounding muscles.

Reasons for knee pain when bending the knee

There are many different conditions that can cause knee pain when bending the knee. Some of the most common causes include:

Osteoarthritis: This is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the cartilage in the knee joint wears down over time. This can cause pain and stiffness, especially when bending the knee.

Meniscus Tears: The meniscus is a piece of cartilage in the knee joint that acts as a shock absorber. If the meniscus tears, it can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness, especially when bending the knee.

Patellar Tendinitis: This condition occurs when the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the shinbone, becomes inflamed. This can cause pain and tenderness, especially when bending the knee.

Ligament Injuries: Injuries to the ACL, PCL, MCL, or LCL can cause knee pain and instability, especially when bending the knee.

Runner's Knee: This is a common overuse injury that occurs when the kneecap rubs against the thigh bone, causing pain and inflammation, especially when bending the knee.

Jumper's Knee: This is another overuse injury that occurs when the patellar tendon becomes inflamed from repetitive jumping or running. This can cause pain and tenderness, especially when bending the knee.

Osgood-Schlatter Disease: This is a condition that primarily affects adolescents and causes pain and swelling below the kneecap, especially when bending the knee.

Physical therapy for knee pain

If you are experiencing knee pain when bending your knee, physical therapy may be a helpful treatment option. Physical therapy can help improve knee function and reduce pain through a variety of exercises, stretches, and other interventions.

One common approach to physical therapy for knee pain is strengthening exercises. Strengthening exercises can help improve the muscles around the knee joint, providing better support and stability. Examples of strengthening exercises for the knee may include leg presses, squats, and lunges.

Another approach to physical therapy for knee pain is stretching exercises. Stretching exercises can help improve the flexibility and range of motion of the knee joint, reducing pain and stiffness. Examples of stretching exercises for the knee may include hamstring stretches and quad stretches.

In addition to exercises, physical therapists may also use other interventions, such as heat or ice therapy, ultrasound, or massage, to help alleviate knee pain and improve knee function. They may also work with patients to develop a personalized treatment plan based on their specific needs and goals.

Physical therapy can be an effective treatment option for knee pain when bending the knee. If you are experiencing knee pain, speak to your doctor about whether physical therapy may be appropriate for you.

Tips for preventing knee pain

While knee pain can be a frustrating and painful experience, there are steps you can take to prevent knee pain from occurring in the first place. Here are some tips for preventing knee pain:

Maintain a Healthy Weight: Carrying extra weight can put added stress on the knee joint, increasing the risk of injury and pain. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help reduce this risk.

Engage in Regular Exercise: Regular exercise can help strengthen the muscles around the knee joint, providing better support and stability. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, can be particularly helpful for reducing knee pain.

Use Proper Form: Whether you're engaging in exercise or performing daily activities, using proper form and technique can help reduce the risk of knee injury and pain. Be sure to use proper posture and alignment when performing exercises or lifting heavy objects.

Wear Proper Footwear: Wearing proper footwear, such as supportive athletic shoes, can help reduce the impact on the knee joint and reduce the risk of injury and pain.

Take Breaks During Repetitive Activities: If you engage in repetitive activities, such as kneeling or squatting, be sure to take breaks to avoid overuse injuries and pain.

Avoid High-Impact Activities: High-impact activities, such as running or jumping, can put added stress on the knee joint, increasing the risk of injury and pain. Consider low-impact alternatives, such as swimming or cycling.

What is a meniscus tear?

One of the most common causes of pain when bending the knee is meniscus tears. If you've forcefully twisted your knee, the meniscus in your knee cartilage may have been damaged. This can be a painful condition in the affected area, limit mobility and make it hard for the joint to bear weight, and requires proper treatment.

Like many soft tissue injuries, a meniscus tear requires rest, ice packs, and physiotherapy. Pain relievers may be helpful, and may even require surgery. Imaging tests can help to differentiate between severe cases and micro tears.

If you are experiencing pain in your knee, are finding that movement makes for more pain, and suspect that a meniscus tear is the root cause, it's time to get in contact with a physiotherapist.

What if there's a pain in my knee joint even when my leg is straight?

As well as pain from bending your knee, there are many other kinds of knee pain you might suffer. For example, you might have swelling in your knee, even if you keep it straight. Pain might shoot up from the knee, or down into the lower leg. You might suffer from locked knee, runner's knee, or many other pains in the thigh bone, shin bone, and knee cap.

Perhaps there's some sort of pain when you attempt a sudden twist of your leg, or there's no pain, but a disconcerting popping sensation instead.

There isn't enough time in an article like this one to outline all the different kinds of knee joint pains and injuries that people suffer from. However, a trained professional like a doctor or a physiotherapist will be able to evaluate your condition and advise appropriate treatment.

Can a physical therapist help with knee pain from bending my knee?

If you feel pain directly when bending your knee, contacting a physiotherapist is a good idea. You may wish to get in contact with a doctor first, but it isn't a prerequisite; you can just book into a physiotherapist and get your knee looked at, the same way you'd go to a doctor for a cold.

Pain from bending the knee should be looked at by a trained health professional as soon as possible. Symptoms may deteriorate over time, and if you stay active rather than resting and getting the right treatment there's the possibility that you'll aggravate the issue. To prevent injury and return to a state of life in which you can bend your knee without pain, seek help from a physiotherapist today.

Swelling? Sore muscles? At Align Health Collective, we can provide award-winning physical therapy to help you find relief from pain when bending your knee. We can also assist you with your overall health, drawing from a wealth of knowledge from peer-reviewed studies. Get in contact with our team and start on the road to recovery.

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