Why Does my Knee Hurt? You’ve Got Muscle Imbalances!
In the age of infinite information, a search of ‘Why does my knee hurt?’ will yield you an impressive 111 million results. Best get to scrolling…or is there a better answer?
With dozens of main causes and even more diagnoses, you could spend all your time researching and getting x-rays and MRIs, while getting nowhere. Or you could get started on your own by mobilizing and strengthening the surrounding areas of the knee to rebuild stability.
Here's the deal. The knee hinges like a door, flexion or extension, open or close. When compared to the hip and ankle joints the knee is pretty simple. So why isn't knee pain simple?
The knee is comprised of connective tissue (the white in the picture above) ligaments and tendons. The tendons then connect to muscle tissue (the red stuff in the picture above).
Here lies the problem. When our knee hurts, we think it is coming from the knee itself; this is a mistake. Barring a traumatic injury, like a slip, fall or collision, most knee pain is a result of a muscle imbalance. That means a muscle is pulling on its tendon’s attachment to the bone; resulting in inflammation and pain. If you can make a change to the muscle tissue, by stretching or strengthening it, you can stop the unnecessary wear and tear on the connective tissue.
So next time you ask yourself “why does my knee hurt?”, you've definitely got some imbalances you need to work on.
Knee Pain Causes
Common injuries include ACL tears, fractures, torn Meniscus, Knee Bursitis, Patellar Tendinitis.
Like with any traumatic or acute injury, always seek care or medical advice. Just be sure to follow that up with proper therapy and corrective movements to eliminate compensations post-injury. Remember, it's common that these injuries are caused by years of poor alignment and muscle imbalances.
IT Band Syndrome, Dislocated Knee Cap, Hip or Foot Pain, Runners or Jumper Knee, Knee Valgus.
These common mechanical problems are all very treatable, but they require effort and patience on your part. By releasing tight tissue, activating weak muscles, and then strengthening them, you can eliminate the symptoms caused by these syndromes or conditions.
Arthritis & Conditions
Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osgood-Schlatter, Chondrocalcinosis, Cartilage Disorders.
All of these conditions are made worse by inflammation. By learning how to identify muscle imbalances and correct them, you can alleviate unnecessary wear and tear thereby reducing inflammation and pain surrounding the joints, even with these conditions.
Muscle Imbalances and Knee Pain
Your Diagnosis DOES NOT matter. You have the power to make ANY diagnosis or condition better through knowledge and application of proper movement and position. You may never be 100%, but that's normal, why not strive to give your body all the help it can to combat your condition?
How to Fix Muscle Imbalances
Weakness + Compensation = Imbalance
Strengthen into Alignment
It doesn't matter if the weakness is from lack of use or overuse. Weakness in a muscle group up or downstream from the knee will cause issues your knee to hurt. If we address the weakness, we alleviate the compensation. This corrects the imbalance and results in lasting symptom relief. That knee brace will stop your knee from hurting now, but won't strengthen anything long term.
Preventing Knee Pain
Strength training is still the best preventative measure for all muscle imbalances. However, if you already have an imbalance, first you must identify the weak or overused muscles in order to strengthen them, The MoveU Program is specifically designed to do help you do this.
Identifying Causes of Knee Pain
Tight quads can lead to a misalignment of the patella. To help with this, begin standing or laying on your stomach. With one leg at a time, try to get your heel to your butt, if you can't, or get a cramp in your hamstring, your quads are tight. Check out a video on this here!
A tight or overused It Band or TFL can cause pain on the outside of the knee. To identify if your knee pain is from ITB syndrome, simply lay on the floor on your affected leg. Sometimes just the floor is enough to replicate the symptoms! If not, using a foam roller or lacrosse ball can help pinpoint the source of the pain. If this causes discomfort, then it is possible for your IT band and or TFL require some work. We've got a great video showing you how to do this here!
The glutes and adductors have a synergistic relationship in stabilizing the hips and the knee. To identify weakness at the hip, you can perform a single leg glute bridge, or clamshell exercise. These can help identify and strengthen weakness at the hip. Look for uneven hips in the bridge or struggling on one side with the clamshell exercise.
Ankles & Feet
If you have a foot that turns in or out or an arch that is collapsed your foot could be the cause of the problem. Strengthening your feet by going barefoot more often along with building glute strength can help alleviate pain at the knee.
Putting it All Together
Now that you understand how the knee is not an isolated area of your body, you know the importance of learning to control and gain body awareness ALL OVER! That’s why the MoveU Program exists. It was developed to help people achieve the body awareness needed to not only recover from existing pain and injuries but to avoid injuries in the future. Learning to control your entire body rather than just saying “why does my knee hurt? I should stop exercising so much!” is the key to living a healthy life.
Written by David Schroer