Kicking That Knee Pain

Knee pain - runner injurySometimes knee pain can happen as a result of impact trauma, but often it seems to occur simply after routine activities and workouts for no significantt reason. You might even notice swelling, tenderness, pain and difficulty with balancing or stabilizing on that leg.  Many people begin to focus on the thought that something is wrong inside their knee since that is where they feel the pain. However, this can delay the resolution of the pain because many times, the problem is a result of an unidentified dysfunction elsewhere in the leg or hip.  Dysfunction in the hip can lead to improper loading of the joints in the leg with every step you take. Dysfunction in the foot changes the force load that travels up your leg each time your foot strikes the ground.

Observe people around you today as they are walking. Do you see anyone who’s knee angles inward like the letter “L” as they step on that leg? They may even report knee discomfort and limitation intermittently, but the problem likely did not begin in the knee. The body is an amazing interconnection of tissues that support and stabilize our skeletal structure. Many of these muscles partner together to optimize everyday movements like walking, running or climbing stairs. For example, the posterior tibialis, vastus medialis oblique and the gluteus medius muscles partner dynamically to create stable alignment from the foot to the hip. Because of our often sedentary lifestyle due to long commutes, desk jobs, computer usage and hours spent watching TV, our bodies begin to weaken and de-condition. Frequently the hip flexors (muscles in the front of the hip) become tight as a result of all this sitting and the gluteals (muscles in the side of the hip and buttocks) steadily weaken. This imbalance changes the dynamic function of the hip when walking or running.  Over time, these abnormal forces effect the knee. Hence, the mysterious knee pain that shows up after exercise.

Perhaps when you are standing, you may notice that one foot has a lower arch than the other and that your feet are sore after prolonged walking or exercise. The same principle applies as mentioned earlier. Weakness or tightness in the foot and ankle can impact the alignment and how the forces travel up into the leg. Again the knee joint gets bombarded by abnormal forces coming up from the foot and ankle. Knee pain is frequently the result especially with repetitive use.

Traditionally, when you go to a medical clinic reporting knee pain, x-rays and possibly other tests will be done on the knee. Typically, no one will assess you in a standing position or address your hip or foot and ankle. All the focus will be on the knee since that is where you have pain. You may be prescribed medication for pain and inflammation. As you begin to take the medication, you might even start to feel better temporarily. If this basic treatment does not relieve your knee pain long term, you may find yourself contemplating injections or even knee surgery. Sadly though, the attention will likely remain focused on your symptoms and not neccessarily on the underlying problem.

If this scenario sounds familiar, ask to have a posture and gait analysis done before any decisions are made about surgery. You will be amazed at the reduction in knee pain and the improvement in function that you can have by simply addressing dynamic positioning and stabilization in the foot and hip with proper instruction from a qualified physical therapist or advanced exercise therapist. Their expertise can definitely assist you in kicking that knee pain.

If you have questions, feel free to comment below or contact me for an assessment.

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