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Understanding Common Injuries: Pathologies and Physical Therapy Treatments

As physical therapists, we see a variety of patients with injuries to different parts of their body. Understanding the most common injuries by body part, as well as their pathologies, can help you identify the care you need. In this article, we will discuss the most common injuries to the knee, shoulder, back, ankle, and wrist, as well as how they can be treated with physical therapy.


Knee Injuries



Knee injuries are among the most common injuries seen in physical therapy clinics. The knee joint is complex, and injuries can occur due to a variety of reasons, including overuse, trauma, and poor mechanics. Here are some of the most common knee injuries and their pathologies:

  1. ACL Tear - The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four major ligaments in the knee. An ACL tear typically occurs due to a twisting injury, such as landing awkwardly from a jump or changing direction suddenly. Symptoms of an ACL tear include pain, swelling, and instability. Treatment for an ACL tear typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to restore range of motion, strength, and stability to the knee joint.

  2. Meniscus Tear - The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that cushions the knee joint. A meniscus tear can occur due to a twisting injury or degeneration over time. Symptoms of a meniscus tear include pain, swelling, and a popping or clicking sensation in the knee. Treatment for a meniscus tear typically involves manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to restore range of motion, strength, and stability to the knee joint.

  3. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome - Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a common knee condition that results in pain in the front of the knee. It is typically caused by overuse or poor alignment of the kneecap. Symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome include pain with activities such as stairs, squatting, or sitting for prolonged periods. Treatment for patellofemoral pain syndrome typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to improve the alignment of the kneecap and strengthen the muscles around the knee joint.

Shoulder Injuries



The shoulder joint is one of the most mobile joints in the body, making it susceptible to injury. Here are some of the most common shoulder injuries and their pathologies:

  1. Rotator Cuff Tear - The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. A rotator cuff tear can occur due to overuse, trauma, or degeneration over time. Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include pain, weakness, and difficulty lifting the arm overhead. Treatment for a rotator cuff tear typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to restore range of motion, strength, and stability to the shoulder joint.

  2. Labral Tear - The labrum is a piece of cartilage that lines the shoulder socket. A labral tear can occur due to overuse or trauma. Symptoms of a labral tear include pain, clicking or popping in the shoulder, and a feeling of instability. Treatment for a labral tear typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to restore range of motion, strength, and stability to the shoulder joint.

  3. Shoulder Impingement - Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons and bursa in the shoulder joint are compressed, typically due to overuse or poor mechanics. Symptoms of shoulder impingement include pain with overhead movements and weakness in the shoulder. Treatment for shoulder impingement typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to improve shoulder mechanics and strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint.

Back Injuries



Back injuries are common and can occur due to poor posture, overuse, or trauma. Here are some of the most common back injuries and their pathologies:

  1. Herniated Disc - A herniated disc occurs when the intervertebral disc that cushions the spinal vertebrae bulges or ruptures. Symptoms of a herniated disc include pain, numbness, and weakness in the back or extremities. Treatment for a herniated disc typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to improve spine mechanics and strengthen the muscles around the spine.

  2. Sprain - A sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments that connect the spinal vertebrae. Symptoms of a sprain include pain and stiffness in the back. Treatment for a sprain typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to restore range of motion, strength, and stability to the back.

  3. Strain - A strain is a stretching or tearing of the muscles or tendons in the back. Symptoms of a strain include pain, stiffness, and muscle spasms in the back. Treatment for a strain typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to restore range of motion, strength, and flexibility to the back.

Ankle Injuries



Ankle injuries are common, especially among athletes who engage in high-impact sports. Here are some of the most common ankle injuries and their pathologies:

  1. Ankle Sprain - An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments that support the ankle joint stretch or tear. Symptoms of an ankle sprain include pain, swelling, and instability. Treatment for an ankle sprain typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to restore range of motion, strength, and stability to the ankle joint.

  2. Achilles Tendonitis - Achilles tendonitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the ankle. Treatment for Achilles tendonitis typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to improve ankle mechanics and strengthen the muscles around the ankle.

  3. Plantar Fasciitis - Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include heel pain, especially in the morning or after prolonged periods of sitting or standing. Treatment for plantar fasciitis typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to improve foot mechanics and strengthen the muscles of the foot and ankle.

Wrist Injuries


Wrist injuries can occur due to repetitive motions or trauma. Here are some of the most common wrist injuries and their pathologies:

  1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed, typically due to repetitive motions or poor wrist positioning. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include pain, numbness, and tingling in the wrist and hand. Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to improve wrist positioning and reduce pressure on the median nerve.

  2. Wrist Sprain - A wrist sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments in the wrist. Symptoms of a wrist sprain include pain, swelling, and instability in the wrist. Treatment for a wrist sprain typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to restore range of motion, strength, and stability to the wrist.

  3. Wrist Strain - A wrist strain is a stretching or tearing of the muscles or tendons in the wrist. Symptoms of a wrist strain include pain, stiffness, and weakness in the wrist. Treatment for a wrist strain typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and movement training. Physical therapists will work with their patients to restore range of motion, strength, and flexibility to the wrist.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

Physical therapy can be an effective treatment for many of these common injuries. Physical therapists use a variety of techniques and modalities to help their patients recover from injuries and improve their overall function. Some common treatments for these injuries include:

  1. Manual therapy - Manual therapy techniques include joint mobilization, soft tissue massage, and manual stretching, which can help reduce pain, improve joint mobility, and restore normal movement patterns.

  2. Exercise - Exercise is an essential part of physical therapy, and physical therapists design customized exercise programs based on the patient's condition and goals. Exercises can help patients strengthen their muscles, improve their balance, and increase their endurance.

  3. Movement training - Movement training helps patients improve their body mechanics and movement patterns. Physical therapists assess patients' posture and movement and develop specific strategies to help them move more efficiently and reduce stress on their joints.

  4. Modalities - Modalities such as heat, ice, and electrical stimulation can help reduce pain and improve healing.

  5. Proprioceptive and balance training: This can help stabilize the injured area and allow you to be more resilient against injury.

  6. Education - Education is a critical component of physical therapy, and physical therapists educate patients on how to prevent future injuries, manage their condition at home, and maintain long-term wellness.

At HIDEF Physical Therapy, we don't prescribe medications or imaging. However, we use a variety of techniques and modalities to help our patients recover from injuries and improve their overall function.

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