5 Common Causes of Knee Pain - The Physio Revolution

5 Common Causes of Knee Pain

Have you ever experienced that sudden jolt of knee pain that can completely catch you off guard? You find yourself thinking your day is going wonderful with no problems, then you just “move wrong” while getting up from a chair, out of a car, or while bending down to feed the dog.

You find yourself grabbing your knee, starring at it as if there should be a big red warning flag that gave you a sign for that intense pain you felt. Yet, there’s zero evidence something is wrong. No big swelling, just some residual old scars from childhood, a pocket of swelling from months or years ago, or a “normal” looking knee.

This is the start for most when things begin to go array.  Those jolts of pain have to come from somewhere, right? It’s not just “moving wrong”, but in scenarios I see day in and out of people who suffer with chronic knee pain, it’s similar to a butterfly effect. The phenomena of an accumulation of events that start as just a sudden sensation of pain once in awhile, growing into a larger, more frequent issue. 

Why? Well, because of a couple reasons.  You’ve been taught to “suck it up” or think “no pain, no gain,” so you just suffer through it and try to ignore it, which normally works initially. You can move on without having issues again for awhile.

Then another jolt comes later and you think… “it’s just nothing”, “it’ll go away on it’s own (it always does)”, or “I just moved wrong again.” You also do not have enough pain to do anything about it at this point. So, you’ll ignore it, move on, and wait for another WORSE episode since it’s “not that bad.”  (PS. Count me in this group, too!)

I’ll tell you this much, to those of you who do suffer from chronic knee pain, you understand. You get that it started with a few of these “wrong movements”, then turned into a dull ache, stiffness in the morning, better as you got moving in the day, and then worse at night sort of pattern.

It can keep you from feeling safe on your feet when going up and down stairs, it can stop you in your tracks of even walking the dog at times because you are fearful if they pull too hard or make you suddenly move a way your knee can’t handle, or make you wonder if you can even attend that family event, the gathering with friends planned in a few days, or have you question if you’ll ever be able to go downhill on a hike ever again.

If this sounds like something you’ve experienced, then you’re going to benefit from this post below. I’ve put together 5 common causes of knee pain that can be looked at immediately to help you from letting this get worse, keep you thinking about other options that WILL work for you, and help you get back to your active, fulfilled life doing what you love to do.

Here they are for you to take a sneak peek into what many knee pain suffers have yet to discover about the REAL ROOT CAUSE of knee pain.

5 Common Causes of Knee Pain:

1.  Muscle Imbalance

Many times, other healthcare professionals like to focus on scans, XRAYS, and primarily attribute the pain to a large muscle group in front of your thigh called the quadriceps for being your “reason” for knee pain.  This could be true, but as you’ll see below, the scans aren’t always a source for pain and this muscle isn’t typically weak in an active human being (unless you are NOT active whatsoever).  What can happen is muscle imbalance. Basically, certain undesired muscles can become dominant from the movements you do over and over vs. other weaker, yet very important muscles that help control the knee.  In this case, the imbalance can alter your movements and stability at the knee, thus creating repetitive wear & tear in a motion less desirable.  It’s important to have muscles tested, functional movements screened, and a professional who knows how to help with these imbalances.

2.  Hip Weakness

This one’s a hot topic right now. There are certain types of knee pain that can improve from strengthening the hips.  We call this regional interdependence. Basically, this term is best described from a great hit for kid’s songs and it goes something like this: “The hip bone is connected to the thigh bone. Thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone. Knee bone is connect to the ankle bone.” You know it, right? In your body, the hip can alter the knee just as much as the feet/ankle can as well. Strength in the hips are essential to keeping knee alignment well and functioning properly, although not a solve all solution in most cases.

3.  Poor Ankle/Foot Foundation

Your feet and eyes are the foundation of your posture.  Let’s take the feet for example. If you think about a tall building structure being built from the bottom up, we can think of our bodies like the same. This means, if the feet or ankles are structurally or mechanically (strength/stability) “off”, we can assume the rest of the body and it’s closest joints have to make up for it to keep it “in balance.”  This can lead to MANY knee pain issues as well.

4.  Uncompleted Previous Rehab

This is something I see far too often. Many people get to a point of “feeling better” then never complete the full necessary rehab to avoid this from coming back again.  The thing is, movements are adaptive. So, even as you begin to feel better and experience less knee pain, the rehab process is just beginning. The fine tuning is the missing piece to most of people’s puzzle. This is the time to correct the poor movements that CREATED the issue in the first place. Many people skip this process which is known to be the MOST beneficial part of your rehab.

5.  Natural Wear & Tear

I hate to break it to you, but it’s true, we break down. We age, we degenerate, and yet, we can still be robust. Take it from an experience I saw in Haiti while volunteering as a PT for STAND -The Haiti Mission.  An older aged women (mid-80’s), limps into the clinic with a visibly crooked right knee. She tells me her wrist hurts, not her knee. When asked why she’s limping, she turns to me with a confused look on her face and tells me she didn’t even know she was.  

We all have natural wear & tear, but it does not have to limit us. For instance, take a look at the picture below to see how common it is to have wear & tear WITHOUT FEELING PAIN as we age. 

What you’ll see that out of 710 people aged 51-89 years old put under imaging of the knee, 68% of them had cartilage damage and 72% had osteophytes (bone spurs) and experienced NO PAIN. Thus, we naturally wear down, but this doesn’t mean it’s the SOURCE or ROOT CAUSE of our pain every time.  It’s important to have someone who can investigate the ROOT CAUSE by what you experience and feel vs. always thinking it’s something structurally irreparable (like a bone spur or tear) or has to require surgery all the time.  

This is what we at The Physio Revolution strive for, the ability to help you limit the need for injections, medications, and surgery.  These options are expensive, not always a favorable outcome afterwards (some live in more pain after surgery), and at times do not fix the REAL issue (especially if the finding wasn’t truly the source of your pain).

If you’re looking to avoid this scenario of surgery, injections, or medications, moral of the story is, it’s not always necessary to have to have these options in your treatment of care. We have helped 100’s before you with many knee pain scenarios successfully return back to doing what they love to do you without having to rely on those aforementioned band-aids. 

If you have interest in learning more or desire to have a full head to toe assessment by one of our specialists to see where your root cause of pain is coming from, you can simply start with a Free Phone Call with one of our team members to make sure you are a good fit for our clinic and we are able to help you 100% like you hope.

Pretty simple. Let us hear your story, make sure we’re a good fit, and chat to get to know each other before we even make a decision if an assessment is next best step for you.

Brooke Olsen

Brooke Olsen

Co-Founder, Director of Physical Therapy
Brooke is a physical therapist, director of physical therapy, and co-founder at The Physio Revolution. She has worked with professional athletes from Olympic level and recreational weekend warriors to others who are in need of regaining their independence and mobility back in their everyday life. Brooke works extensively with all of the PT’s and spends a vast amount of her time ensuring our treatment plans keep pace with the rapid advancements that make physical therapy so effective and such a ‘go-to’ profession for people aged 45+.
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