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The Top 3 Knee Pain Causes

baker's cyst diagram

Last week, we talked about knee anatomy and facts. This week, we’ll take a look at the top 3 knee pain causes and how we treat each of them here at AFC Chiropractic. Like a lot of joints in your body, the knee consists of ligaments, meniscus (the cartilage between the bones), muscles, and tendons. Each of these can strain, sprain, or tear from use over time without proper recovery, or from an injury (like a fall). 

If you have an old knee injury that was not properly treated, it may flare up every so often, or you may feel knee pain all the time. This pain is due to these various tissues (ligaments, joints, cartilage, muscles, and tendons) becoming inflamed.

1) Ligament Damage

There are 2 types of ligaments surrounding the knee: the collateral ligaments on the sides of the knee and the cruciate which make a cross-like pattern on the inside of the knee. When you tear or strain these ligaments, not only do they cause pain, but they don’t hold the alignment of the knee in its normal position. Untreated, walking will put abnormal strain on the cartilage and muscles, causing them, too, to become overworked and inflamed. 

Pain behind the knee is sometimes caused by the cruciate ligaments becoming torn or inflamed. Our first step will be to determine the extent of the damage, before providing a holistic approach to recovery, healing, and strengthening of the muscles that support the ligaments, helping you to restore a comfortable, natural gait. 

2) Baker’s Cyst, or Knee Cartilage Damage

The meniscus is a figure 8-shaped piece of cartilage between your thigh bone and lower leg bone. Repeated strain, such as running, can wear it out while trauma can tear it, causing a condition known as Baker’s cyst. As with ligament damage, our number one priority will be to help build strength and flexibility in the muscles surrounding the knee in order to take pressure off the damaged cartilage. Cartilage tissue does not heal as quickly as skin or muscle, and takes time, patience, and a wholesome diet to support. Our goal is to help you recover from Baker’s cyst and find renewed strength without the need for surgery.

3) Knee Muscle Strain

The muscles of your leg can also cause knee pain. There is a kinetic chain spanning from the foot, along the ankle, past the knee, and up to the hip and lower back. If any of these areas are misaligned, it affects the entire chain. IE: an unsupported arch in a shoe can cause the foot to pronate, or turn inward, which rolls the ankle inward, thereby turning the knee inward. Over time, it causes strain on the meniscus and the IT band of muscles tighten up, becoming apparent through knee pain. 

Most often, the root cause of muscle pain behind the knee or otherwise is posture. Running form, shoe shape, limping, and other factors affecting how you use your legs will cause the muscles to be strained in ways they’re not built for. After determining the full extent of the damage, our next step is to identify the cause of your knee pain and help not just with recovery but with corrective interventions to help prevent knee injury in the future.

In order to treat the knee correctly, at AFC we first start with a thorough exam to determine which tissue is causing the pain. Treatment may include trigger point injections, manipulations of the spine, hip, knee, and/or ankle, and teaching the appropriate stretches and exercises to strengthen the knee. Rarely are medications such as anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) or muscle relaxants prescribed. The goal is that you’ll never need surgery. The great news is that this condition responds very quickly when you take a comprehensive approach like we do here at AFC. To get started, please visit a local chiropractor.