Knee Pain: Is a Victim Rather Than the Cause?

Pain. It doesn’t always appear where the injury lies.

Every physical therapist has their “niche” or favorite area of the body to work on. I would say one of my favorite conditions would be non-traumatic knee pain. The reason is because many times the knee never really was the issue, but rather a deficit coming from another area of the body.

In physical therapy school, we are taught to look “above and below” the joint of symptoms. When the condition is non-traumatic, this can hold true for so many diagnoses.

Knee pain my be caused from a glute or core dysfunction.

For the knee, after clearing out any ligamentous or meniscal issues, I would immediately start assessing hip and core strength followed by ankle and foot, depending on the presentation of that individual. I will many times find core and hip deficits that the patient was not even aware of and these can include core and glute weakness, joint restrictions, etc.

Once we work on these areas, many times the knee pain will clear up. I will still address any weakness and palpable tenderness the knee may have due to the irritating pain that brought the patient into physical therapy, but I have found many patients are shocked to learn that the knee was a “victim” to the pain they were experiencing. The patients are also extremely happy because they will return to whatever activity, be it recreational, working or daily activities, symptom free and have gained knowledge about their body and how to manage their knee pain that really wasn’t the cause in the first place.

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