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  • Brixton Therapy Centre

Common Knee Problems and How Osteopathy Can Help

One of the myths about osteopathy is that we only treat people's backs. In fact, one of the most common parts of the body that we treat at the Brixton Therapy Centre are the knees.

Our knees take a lot of strain. There are a vast variety of issues that can surface from everyday life as well as knee injuries from running, sports especially those that involve jumping and/or sudden turns, and particular kinds of work. For example, carpet fitters and those who work with young children spend a lot of time on their knees and are prone to knee problems.

We’re going to give some facts about the knee as well as detail some of the most common knee problems that we see at our South London therapy centre and what we do to remedy them.

About the Knee

  • The knee is the largest joint in the body

  • It is the second lowest joint in the body.

  • Knees are the most complicated joint in the body

  • It bears our weight during almost every activity.

  • The knee uses 10 muscles to function.

  • Knees are formed of 3 bones: the patella (kneecap), the femur (thighbone) and the tibia (shinbone).

  • They have 4 major ligaments: anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament, and the lateral collateral ligament.

  • When we are born the kneecap is formed of cartilage, it turns to bone between the ages of 2 and 6.

Most Common Knee Problems

The following is a breakdown of some of the most common knee problems, their symptoms and their causes.


Osteoarthritis can affect anyone at any age although it is more common among those over 50 and it particularly affects women.

The degenerative nature of arthritis affects the knee by wearing away the cartilage and also creating rougher surfaces of the joint. This can make the knee stiff and painful.

Sprained or Strained Ligaments or Muscles

Swelling and pain can be a sign of a sprained or strained knee. Causes, especially causes of strains, can include overuse and repetitive actions. Cyclists and joggers, or those that spend a lot of time going up and down stairs, are just some of those who are more likely to suffer from knee strain. This can also be caused by increased pressure on the joint such as a sudden weight increase, perhaps following another injury that limits movement and exercise, hormonal changes or some diseases and health problems. Knee strain is also common among weightlifters.

Bumps, knocks and twisting of the knee are common causes of sprains and are therefore an injury seen often in those who play contact sports and sports that involve sudden stops and turns such as rugby, football, tennis and basketball.


Inflammation of the tendons around the knee causes pain, tenderness, and swelling. It is brought on by repetitive actions and overuse of the knee. Initially, the pain may only occur during sports or high-impact activities. But over time it worsens until everyday activities become painful. It is important to get treatment before tendonitis leads to torn tendons.

Patellar Tendonitis

Also known as ‘jumper's knee’ particularly affects the tendon that connects the patella or kneecap, to the tibia or shin bone. Symptoms include stiffness of the knee, pain and swelling, particularly under the kneecap. It is common with those who play basketball and volleyball, those who do the long jump and those who skateboard.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This auto-immune disease can cause any of the joints in the body to become swollen, stiff and sore. These symptoms may be worse for lack of or during vigorous activity. This will require diagnosis and treatment from your GP.

Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease

Most common among adolescents and brought on by the growth spurts that occur during puberty. This disease causes pain and swelling around the area where the tendon joins the patella and the tibia.

Torn Cartilage

Also called a meniscus tear, torn cartilage is characterised by stiff, sore, swollen and ‘crunchy’ knees. It may also feel as though the knee is giving way underneath you. Causes are commonly particularly bad twists of the knee.


There are fluid-filled sacs surrounding the knee called bursa. When these become inflamed they can make the knee painful, swollen, sore to touch and red. Occasionally this can develop into septic bursitis which is when the sacs become infected. This will require antibiotics from your GP.

Osteopathy for Knee Problems

In the first instance, your osteopath will ask you questions about your knee problem. They will then carry out a physical examination. This will help them to diagnose the problem.

Once a diagnosis has been made your osteopath will discuss treatment options with you. In some cases they will refer you to a different medical specialist; if they suspect rheumatoid arthritis for example. Or if you require treatment from a GP, to treat an underlying infection perhaps.

The treatment plan that your osteopath will create for you will use a combination of stretching, massage and manipulation to increase the mobility of your knee, encourage blood flow (to promote natural healing) and relieve muscle tension.

They will also recommend exercises and stretching for you to do at home to speed up your recovery and ease pain.

It is also likely, especially if your knee problem has been occurring for some time, that you will have compensated in some way for your injury or disease which often puts unnatural pressure on other joints and areas such as the hips, back and ankles. Your osteopath will determine if this is the case and seek to remedy those problems too.

What To Do if You Suspect a Knee Problem

If you have pain in your knee/s whether or not you recognise symptoms of any of the most common knee problems listed above it is important to seek a diagnosis and treatment as early as possible. This can help prevent the problems from worsening or a lengthy recovery period.

Book a consultation with one of our osteopaths at a time that suits you here.

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