Many of us suffer from chronic pain in the knees, hips, or lower back. Often, there is a connection between these complaints and the way you walk. This article sheds more light on knee pain and in particular, how abnormal foot mechanics or asymmetry in our gait can affect knee function, causing pain and discomfort.
Lots of people have chronic pain in their legs, usually in the knees, hips, or back. Sometimes there is a connection between this pain, and the way that you walk or stand. This article will help you understand how your feet or shoes can affect your walk (gait) and how this may be creating pain.
Common types of knee pain
Everyone has experienced some knee pain at some point in their life. The knee is the largest joint in the human body and it’s a point of contact for a lot of friction in many daily activities. The stress from your legs is transferred to the tendons and ligaments of the knees and kneecaps. Too much pain in the knee can slow you down or stop you in your tracks.
You will know that you have more serious knee pain if you notice that your knee is swollen, stiff, weak, or unable to move. Grinding feelings and noises like popping or crunching are also potentially bad signs.
What causes knee pain?
Sometimes it is extra stress or force applied to the knee, such as lifting a couch or mattress. Knees can also be injured by everyday use and nothing particularly stressful. It might be your footwear that is causing an imbalance in your gait or style of walking.
The most common injury in the knee is a ligament injury. There are 4 types of ligament injuries you can sustain:
ACL (Anterior cruciate ligament) is the first most common ligament to injure. It connects the thigh to the shin.
PCL (Posterior cruciate ligament) is less common to injure. It also connects the thigh to the shin.
LCL (Lateral collateral ligament) connects the thigh to the fibula which is on the outside of the leg.
MCL (Medial collateral ligament) connects the thigh to the shin on the inside of the leg.
The ACL is the most common of the knee ligaments to get injured. These tears often happen during a jerking/twisting motion.
Not landing a jump can cause this injury to the ACL. Common activities that injure ACLs are football, basketball, tennis, skiing, and soccer.
The PCL is also frequently injured but it’s more of a specific movement, common in car accidents.
The MCL is injured from a hit to the outer part of the knee. This is common in hockey.
Other common causes of knee pain include:
Chondromalacia- the softening of cartilage in the kneecap. The condition is most common in young adults, skiers, cyclists, and anyone that jogs or runs. Symptoms include dull pain worsening while doing activities like climbing down stairs.
Meniscal injuries- the menisci of the knee (lubrication fluid of the joint) can become injured when rotating the knee too far. This is common during tennis or basketball, where there is lots of pivoting. Symptoms include the knee feeling weak, locking, or making clicking sounds.
Ligament injuries- the fancy way of describing what most people know to be a sprain, these injuries usually occur during a quick jerking movement.
Tendon injury- the tendons in the knee get overused and can stretch them to become inflamed. Tendonitis or tears in a tendon are painful and make walking, jumping, and running problematic.
Osgood-Schlatter disease- more common in young people, this disease is the result of tension or repetitive stress to the upper tibia. The pain is located below the knee and it hurts when the knee is used. It usually appears as a bump below the kneecap.
How can you diagnose knee pain?
If you are suffering from knee pain but unsure of why or what kind of knee issue you have, there are tests to determine the cause. It’s possible to give the knee an MRI or magnetic resonance image. This helps a professional see a detailed picture of the inside of the knee. Another helpful tool is using x-rays or ultrasound to try and see inside the knee.
Things that can show up in these imaging tests include bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and blood vessels. This will help your medical professional to determine if you have damaged cartilage, a torn tendon or ligament, any bone fractures, as well as any possible infections or tumours.
How do you prevent knee pain?
- Avoid activities that put repetitive stress on your knee joints
- Reduce your average weight if needed, so that your knees push less body weight
- lower body exercises can often help promote knee recovery and prevent future injuries. Increasing the strength of the muscles in the thighs can give your knee more stability
- Other prevention methods include a warm-up routine before the activity and a cool-down and stretching session after activity.
HOW TO RELIEVE KNEE PAIN?
To figure out the best knee pain treatment, it helps to understand the reason for the pain.
Try RICE, a combination of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation of the painful area, is a classic remedy. Over the counter pain medication may also reduce swelling and ease knee pain.
Here are some simple tips for reducing knee pain:
- Find insoles or shoe inserts (orthotics) that might provide some shock support and cushion for your foot. Easing the load on the foot can relieve knee issues of stress.
- If the issue is flat feet, orthotics can help with an artificial arch to improve leg alignment and therefore ease the stress on the knees.
- Find a balance between resting, and still keeping muscles strong, in other words, don’t rest too much
- Don’t push yourself too much, causing further injuries, such as playing sports. Take enough time off!
- Don’t worry about taking your time going up or down steps, using handrails or a cane if needed.
- Consider an osteopath, massage, or acupuncture to help speed up the process.
- Use cold packs to keep swelling down, but heat to gently stretch the joints of the knee. Just try not to agitate the injury!
If pain persists, talk to your doctor, physiotherapist, or medical professional for advice, and look for an orthotics specialist near you!