Knee pain can be a very debilitating thing. It can prevent you from performing your normal daily tasks, make it difficult to care for your family, and/or interfere with your training.
Most, if not all, athletes will experience knee pain at some point in their lives. Whether you are a competitive athlete or recreational athlete, I am sure you are no different.
I know I have had my fair share of knee pain. First experiencing knee pain as a young athlete playing soccer in my teens, then again as a runner in college and after, and also more recently as a CrossFit athlete. The difference now compared to when I was in high school and college is now I know how to prevent the majority of it as well as what to do about it when I start feeling it.
When it comes to knee pain, the important thing to remember is it is a symptom of something else not working properly. Generally speaking, the knee is a hinge joint. Being a hinge joint, there is not much that can go on in that area to be the “driver” or “cause” of the pain. For the most part, the only thing that will cause knee pain specific to the knee is a traumatic injury, such as an ACL tear due to taking a hit to the knee.
The knee is surrounded above and below by very mobile and complex joints in the hip and foot and ankle complex. Because of this, if either one or both of those areas are not moving properly, the knee will not move properly. Over time, this results in abnormal wear and tear in the knee.
This wear and tear shows up on scans as meniscus tears, cartilage damage, and osteoarthritis, to name a few. Common diagnoses for knee issues due to biomechanical deficits include IT band pain or lateral knee pain, chondromalacia, patellofemoral syndrome, medial knee pain, and patellar tendinitis…and the list goes on and on.
And now I am sure you are wondering what about the hip and foot and ankle complex can cause this knee pain.
From a mobility standpoint, when the hip and/or ankle lose mobility, the knee commonly shifts more forward than ideal in order to perform necessary movements, such as squatting or kneeling. This forward shift causes increased pressure on the knee and increased forces on the soft tissues of the knee, including the cartilage and meniscus.
From a stability standpoint, when the hip or foot are lacking good control, the leg will turn/fall inward slightly, especially when fatigued. This inward motion places increased stress on the ligaments around the knee, increased force on the meniscus, and increased tension on the IT band/TFL/lateral quadriceps.
Check out these videos to learn what you can do to begin addressing your hip and foot/ankle mobility and stability deficits.
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