The knee and ankle joints are both weight bearing joints that we rely on for nearly every movement throughout our day. So when pain strikes in these joints, our daily activities are often severely affected. Pain in the knee and ankle joints can occur at any age and no matter how old you are, you want to be back on both legs feeling good as fast as possible.
Weight Bearing Joints – The Knee:
The knee joint is actually a combination of two joints, between the tibia and femur, and between the patella and femur. Pain in the knee joint is often in one or both of these joints, or in the muscles/tendons around the joint.
Injuries to the knee can be traumatic or overuse injuries. Traumatic injuries usually occur from a specific event such as a car accident, being tackled when playing a sport, tripping while on a hike etc. These injuries often are associated with immediate high amounts of pain, swelling and bruising, and can result in damage to tendons, muscles, ligaments or bones. Sometimes, traumatic injuries may lead to surgeries such as ACL reconstruction surgery.
Overuse injuries are often due to repetition over a short or long period of time. When you go on weekend adventures that are a lot more active than your usual life, or decide to start training to run a 5km race, you are at a higher risk of developing an overuse injury such as jumper’s or runner’s knee. Overuse injuries can also develop over a very long time. People who work on a hard concrete floor for 30 years are at a higher risk of developing arthritis or degenerative meniscal tears in their knees. In some cases, overuse injuries can wear away the cartilage in the joint completely which may lead to a knee replacement.
The knee is a very common area for physiotherapy treatment. Treatment techniques can help to decrease pain and improve range of motion, strength and endurance. Overall function can be improved and maintained through an independent rehab exercise program developed over the course of treatment.
Weight Bearing Joints – The Ankle:
The ankle joint is a more complex area of the body made up of multiple bones and joints. The 3 main bones of the traditional ankle joint are the Tibia, Fibula and Talus. The Tibia and Fibula are the two shin bones and the Talus is one of the Tarsal bones of the foot. Pain in the ankle is often due to overstrain of the structures that keep this joint stable. Just like the knee, pain can result from traumatic or overuse injuries.
Probably the most common traumatic injury to the ankle is a lateral (outside) ankle sprain. An ankle sprain is the overstretching of the ligaments that keep the ankle stable. When you roll your ankle, the ligaments on the outside of the ankle are overstretched which causes pain, swelling and bruising. Often associated with an ankle sprain is a fibular muscle strain on the outside of the ankle. Traumatic injuries can also cause you to break your ankle. Ankle fractures usually occur from similar mechanics to the ankle sprain, just to a more severe extent. Because the mechanics are similar, ankle fractures also usually involve spraining the ligaments and straining the muscles, which makes the rehabilitation from this injury more extensive.
Overuse injuries to the ankle, just like the knee, are usually a result of an increase or a change in activity level. The Achilles tendon can be susceptible to overuse, especially when the calf muscles are worked harder than they are used to. Another chronic injury often seen in the ankle is repetitive ankle sprains. This injury is when you have multiple ankle sprains to the same side over a period of time. Usually this occurs because the ligaments have been stretched, decreasing the stability of the ankle, and the muscles of the ankle were not properly strengthened after the last injury.
Physiotherapy treatment after an ankle injury can help decrease pain and swelling, and improve range of motion, strength and mobility. It is very important to strengthen the muscles around the ankle after an injury to provide the necessary stability to function properly. The ankle is also a major component in your balance systems, so maintaining strong, stable ankles can help keep you upright, preventing future injuries.