Physical Therapy for Knee Pain

You’ve got questions about getting physical therapy for knee pain? JACO Rehab’s got answers.

Whether you’re suffering from a knee ache or recovering from surgery, JACO’s physical therapists know how to treat just about any knee issue.

Knee pain is common and treatable. It can arise from overuse, trauma, or degenerative changes. Some conditions require surgery to protect the integrity of the joint. Physical therapists know how to assess your movement patterns, figure out what needs to improve, and provide the right exercises and resources to help you relieve your pain and get back to your life.

If you’re having knee pain, don’t wait any longer in hopes that it will disappear. Get it addressed, get moving, and learn how to prevent it!

At JACO, we provide a rare opportunity for you to be treated 1-on-1 by a physical therapist for over 50 minutes every session. We give you power over your injury so that you can confidently discharge from our care. Interested in an appointment? Call us today!

Common Knee Injuries that Physical Therapists Treat


  • Osteoarthritis

Over time, the knee goes through wear-and-tear… especially the cartilage in the knee. Arthritic changes are normal and common MRI findings as you age but can create problems if it becomes symptomatic. That’s where we step in.

  • Knee Replacement Surgery

If osteoarthritis becomes too painful to manage, a knee replacement may be an option. This involves replacing half or the entire joint with a prosthetic. This is a very common surgery. Physical therapy is essential to your recovery.

Want to prepare for your surgery? Read about prehabilitation!

  • Meniscus Tear

Your cartilage in the knee is separated into two compartments: the medial and the lateral meniscus. Uncontrolled twisting/pivoting forces can cause a tear in the meniscus. Depending on the size or the location of the meniscus, surgery may or may not be recommended. Many tears can be improved with conservative care.

  • Meniscus Repair and Meniscectomy

If a meniscus tear requires surgical treatment, your surgeon may talk about a repair or a meniscectomy. Either procedure could be appropriate depending on the situation, but they have very different protocols.

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Surgery

The ACL is, unfortunately, and very commonly torn ligament that sidelines athletes. An ACL tear can happen as result of direct impact, poor landing and or cutting mechanics. Sports that require jumping and cutting have high ACL-tear rates. Sometimes ACL tears coincide with meniscus tears, and may also need repair. Physical therapy is essential in your recovery regardless.

  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Surgery

The PCL is less commonly injured, but still seen often in sports like football. This is usually the result of a direct hit to the shin which jolts the knee backwards. In some cases, the PCL does not need to be repaired, although the knee will need extensive strength training to improve its stability.

  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Surgery

The MCL is also commonly injured, but not as often as the ACL. An MCL injury usually occurs with a blow to the outside of the knee forcing it inward. Complete tears are usually repaired, but incomplete tears can sometimes recover without surgery. An MCL sprain or tear can be tedious to rehabilitate, so make sure you seek a physical therapist’s help.

  • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Surgery

The LCL is not commonly torn. It requires a blow from the inside of the knee forcing it outward, which is rare outside of sport. LCL is not usually torn alone – it will often be torn with ACL or PCL – and will require surgery to repair.

  • Patellofemoral Syndrome (PFPS)

PFPS often presents as U-shaped pain under the kneecap, especially when squatting, going up/down stairs, or being seated with the knee bent. It’s the result of poor patellar tracking and weak quadriceps, causing the kneecap to ride too closely to the bone when bending the knee.

  • Patellar Dislocation/Subluxation

Patellar (kneecap) dislocation can be from a traumatic injury or from poor tracking due to weakness/shallow patellar groove on the femur. Your medial patellofemoral ligament keeps the kneecap from sliding to the outside, but with a dislocation, it can be disrupted which predisposes the knee to more dislocations. Sometimes surgical intervention is needed to stop a kneecap from dislocating frequently. Whether you’re seeking conservative or post-surgical care, JACO has your back.

  • IT Band Syndrome

Your iliotibial (IT) band is a structure that runs from the hip to the side of the knee. Irritation of the IT band (or its bursa) usually occurs in the outside of the knee with repetitive knee flexion/extension. It’s most common in runners.

  • Patellar Tendonitis

Your quadriceps, the muscle located on the front of the thigh, has a tendon that runs over the kneecap onto the front of the shin. If the quad is loaded more than it is strong enough to handle over time, patellar tendonitis can occur, which is painful between the kneecap and the shin.

Do Physical Therapy Exercises Work?


JACO Rehab’s physical therapy team works with you to figure out what movements create your knee symptoms and how to address them. Knee pain can be persistent and nagging, but we can help you put a stop to the discomfort.

During your first physical therapy appointment at JACO, your therapist will listen to your pain patterns and discuss the plan of attack. He/she will measure your range of motion, knee/hip strength, and analyze your movement to see where the weak links are hiding. Your therapist may also screen your low back to make sure nerve pain isn’t a contributing factor.

Once you and your physical therapist have established a plan, you’ll be given a few exercises to begin so that you can start your path to recovery! It’s important to stay consistent – compliance is key.

The following sessions will be used to analyze your symptoms, see what needs to be addressed, and progress your exercises accordingly. The goal is to get you back to your daily activities with the least pain possible, although you may have to use your exercises as tools to help you maintain your progress after physical therapy.

During these sessions, you may even gain insight into why your pain began in the first place. Is it running technique? Lifting technique? Tightness in other joints that increases stress on the knee? With this knowledge, you’ll figure out how to manage your symptoms so that they have less chance or returning.

Sure, we’d love to see you again – but not in the clinic!

Rehab for Knee Replacements


Knee replacement surgery has evolved and are now routine. Good rehab is very important though to reach optimal range of motion and strength. The rehab process is hard work and with compliance to your physical therapy program, you can return to your daily activities successfully.

JACO physical therapists can help educate you on expectations during a Prehab Visit before your surgery. You and your therapist will review what to do the days after surgery and how to start rehabilitating early. You’ll learn how to walk with different assistive devices to minimize pain and swelling. You’ll also learn tips and tricks on how to navigate your car, go up/down steps, and get in/out of the car.

Surgeries are scary, and the road to recovery can seem long. Physical therapists can help you regain your independence. Organize Prehab and Rehab sessions at JACO to start getting ready.

Top 3 Frequently Asked Questions about Knee Pain


1. When should I see a doctor for knee pain?

Knee pain is common, and minor aches can sometimes resolve on their own. However, if your knee pain is…

  • Frequently returning
  • Sharp and painful throughout the day
  • Accompanied by swelling, numbness/tingling, or locking
  • Throwing off your balance
  • Affecting your daily routine
  • Impacting your sleep
  • Lasting for more than a few days without improvement

… then ask your physician for a referral to a physical therapist for further evaluation and treatment.

2. Why does my knee click?

Knee “clicking/popping/cracking” can occur in young, aging, injured, or replaced knees. When it happens without pain, it’s no cause for concern.

In 2015, a research study was released that shows real-time imaging of a knee “popping”. The imaging revealed that popping is a result of air bubbles being released from the joint. The same thing happens when you crack your knuckles… and no, it isn’t bad for you!

Clicking or popping with knee pain could be a sign of meniscus tear or osteoarthritis and should be checked if it affects your daily routine. If the same knee experiences catching and locking, you should have it examined by a physician and physical therapist soon. Knee locking could result in a fall or further injury.

If you’ve had a knee replacement, you may also experience clicking but in a different way. Your new knee is very durable, but it does have hardware made of metal and or plastic, which can make noise. This is normal. But, if your knee replacement’s clicking is painful, you should tell your surgeon.

The bottom line:

  • Clicking/popping alone is not alerting or harmful
  • Painful clicking should be examined by a physician or physical therapist
  • Clicking in a total knee replacement is normal unless it is painful, in which case you should tell your surgeon

3. Can sciatica cause knee pain?

Yes, sciatica (or sciatic nerve pain often originating from the low back) can cause knee pain in two ways:

  • It can mimic knee pain by sending shooting pain into the back of the knee, sometimes even into the front. It can be accompanied by numbness and tingling in the thigh, shin, or foot. If you feel numbness or tingling with your knee pain, make sure you let the physical therapist know.
  • It can influence the nerve’s signaling to muscles by making the muscle weaker. If the nerve isn’t conducting well, it won’t be able to tell the muscle to contract. Weakness in the hips or around the knee can cause pain due to increased force through the joint without muscular reinforcement. It is very common to have a secondary knee issue with history of sciatica down the same leg.

Do you have more questions that need to be answered? Reach out to JACO today!

Quick Tips for Injury Prevention

Prevent Knee injuries and Measure you Knee Stability!

Preventing Knee Injuries in Female Athletes

How to Blow Out your Knee

TV Commercial in Honolulu Hawaii for JACO Rehab

Runners' Knee Self Help

Avoid Knee Injuries when Hiking: Koko Crater Hawaii

These videos are not a replacement for professional physical therapy but to help alleviate for minor injuries and aches.

Contact Jaco

Call: (808)381-8947

Send An Email: scheduling@jacorehab.com