The knee is the largest and most complex joint in the human body. It’s also one of the most neglected. While many people suffer from knee pain, fewer know that they can find relief through chiropractic treatment for knee pain.
The Complexities of the Knee
The knee is comprised of two separate joints held together by various ligaments, tendons, and muscles to provide strength and stability. The structures that make up the knee are:
- Tibiofemoral Joint – this joint lies between the femur (long bone of the thigh) and the tibia (shin bone).
- Patello-femoral Joint – this joint lies between the femur and the patella (knee cap).
Within these joints are various structures that, when injured, contribute to loss of mobility and stability in the knee. Injuries typically also result in significant or chronic pain.
- Articular Cartilage – this cartilage protects the ends of the tibia and femur where they meet to form the knee joint.
- Menisci – the lateral meniscus and medial meniscus are two fibrocartilage semicircular structures that cradle the two rounded ends the protrude from the femur (condyles).
- Ligaments – there are four major ligaments in the knee: the lateral (LCL) and medial collateral ligaments (MCL) as well as the anterior (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligaments (PCL). The LCL and MCL run from the condyles of the femur and attach to the head of the fibula or tibia, respectively, on the outside and ‘inside’ of the knee joint. The ACL and PCL are ligaments inside the knee that attach the condyles of the femur to the head of the tibia. The ACL and PCL are also referred to as the intracapsular ligaments because they lie deep within the ‘capsule’ of the joint.
- Tendons – these are fibrous bands of connective tissue that attach muscle to bone. The name of each of these tendons corresponds with the muscle group they originate from. For example, the quadriceps tendon joins the quadriceps muscle with the patella.
What Causes Knee Pain?
The knee is the largest joint in the body because they take the most abuse. At a normal walking pace, the knee bears approximately 1 ½ times your body weight in pressure with each step. This means that at a weight of 200 lbs, the knee takes as much as 300 lbs of force every time your foot impacts the ground.
The pressure born by the knee increases with activities such as jogging, running and jumping. Even activities as seemingly innocent as squatting to pick something up can strain your joints. This movement puts as much as 4 to 5 times your body weight in pressure on your knees. With the knee taking so much strain in normal everyday tasks, any number of injuries or complaints can contribute to significant pain and loss of mobility. When seeking chiropractic treatment for knee pain, it is important to identify the cause of the pain first. Once you understand the origin of the pain, then you can begin establishing a course of treatment.
Some of the most common causes of knee pain are:
- Bursitis of the Knee – this occurs when the bursa, or fluid-filled sac, in the knee becomes inflamed from frequent irritation. Often called ‘housemaid’s knee’, this condition is common among people whose profession requires prolonged kneeling, such as with plumbers, mechanics, and gardeners.
- Osteoarthritis of the Knee – also called degenerative joint disease, this occurs when either through age or injury, the cartilage protecting the bones in the knee breaks down, resulting in bone-on-bone contact. Patients with a history of obesity or knee trauma are at greater risk of developing this condition.
- Patellar Chondromalacia – also called ‘Runner’s Knee’, occurs when the cartilage between the patella (knee cap) and the femur breaks down or becomes damaged. This can result from aging or normal wear and tear of the joint. However, it may also result from repetitive trauma, or loss of stability due to weakening muscles surrounding the joint.
- Patellar Dislocation – this occurs when tendons securing the patella are torn, allowing the kneecap to slide out of its usual position.
- Patellar Fracture – this occurs when the knee suffers blunt force trauma. This injury may be the result of a fall, vehicle accident, or an impact from a contact sport.
Other Common Knee Pain Causes:
- Patellar Tendonitis – also called ‘Jumper’s Knee’, refers to inflammation of the tendon which connects the knee cap to the shin bone, usually as the result of overuse or recurring trauma. As its nickname suggests, this injury is most common in athletes of jumping sports including track and field and gymnastics.
- Torn Ligament – the ligaments in the knee limit the rotation as well as the forward and backward movement of the knee. Between the two collateral ligaments, the MCL is the one injured. Typical injuries occur to this ligament by a blow to the outside of the knee. This injury is common in contact sports such as hockey, football, and martial arts. Of the two cruciate ligaments, the ACL is the one injured most often. The injury is usually the result of the knee twisting while in a locked position, with the foot firmly planted. This injury is common in many sports such as football, basketball, and soccer. Depending on the nature and severity of the injury, it is possible to suffer multiple torn ligaments.
- Torn Meniscus – this injury occurs when the knee is forcibly twisted while bearing weight, such as pivoting on the knee to change direction suddenly. These tears become more likely as you age as the cartilage deteriorates but is also common among athletes.
Depending on the nature of the injury and the severity of the condition, some of the above-listed complaints may require surgical repair. However, most patients will benefit from chiropractic treatment for knee pain as an alternative to other forms of treatment or as part of rehabilitative physical therapy.
Chiropractic Treatment for Knee Pain
Chiropractic medicine is a system of integrative regenerative medicine that focuses on the diagnosis of neuromuscular ailments and treating these complaints through the manual adjustment and/or manipulation of the joints and spine. Where knee pain is concerned it may be necessary to make adjustments in seemingly unrelated parts of the body. Often, adjustments in places such as the back and hips, help correct underlying issues that contributed to your injury. However, chiropractic treatment for knee pain does not focus only on correcting the alignment of your bones.
Here at Freedom Health Centers, we take a whole-patient approach. We recognize that factors ranging from diet and exercise regimen to family and medical history all play a part pain. Your chiropractor will interview you and examine the knees to determine what factors may be contributing to your pain. They may also recommend changes in your lifestyle to reduce your discomfort, restore mobility, and help prevent future injury.
A chiropractor may also prescribe other methods of pain management and care to aid you in your recovery process. Specific workouts to strengthen supporting muscles may help to maintain correct alignment and improve stability. Stretches and massage may also improve flexibility and restore range of motion. Traction can also relieve pressure in the spine and relieve pain. Depending on your complaint some of these methods may be more appropriate than others. Your chiropractor will discuss all options with you to find the best one for your needs.