Patellar Tendonitis, Meniscus Tears, IT band syndrome...

Is Your Knee Pain Really a Foot or Hip Problem?

The first line of defense for most knee pain is injections, medication, or surgery.  All of these options are viable options, but should be a last resort.  This blog will explain how you should really approach knee pain first.

If you look at the muscles of the lower extremity, they are very long and most cross more than one joint.  Because these muscles connect several joints, they will often pass dysfunction in one joint along to another.  Think of these muscles as being “that guy” who re-gifts crappy gifts; no one really wants them, but you’re going to get that crap whether you want it or not.  A good rule of thumb is the more complex a joint is (different ranges of motions, muscles crisscrossing in different directions, forces changing directions at the joint, etc), the more opportunity there is to develop dysfunction. 

So if you have issues at a simple joint, there is only a hand full of things that can go wrong.  With the knee, most of these problems stem from traumatic accidents.  If acute injury or trauma isn’t part of the equation, the joint is likely having symptoms because the muscles of the leg are sharing dysfunction from surrounding complex joints.

Instead of injections, medications, massage, cupping, or acupuncture around the area of pain, first try these 3 tips which will address common issues of the hip, ankle, and foot.

1)      Check the Foot and Ankle

a.       Gait relies on Big Toe Extension.  If you don’t have a good degree of extension of the big toe, your gait will change and altered forces will pass through the knee and put it at risk for things like meniscus injuries and tendonitis.

b.       Next, try to do a calf raise.  Does your weight shift to the outside of the feet as you raise up?  This indicates instability of the ankle which will result in your foundation being weak and put EVERYTHING above it at risk of injury.

2)      Hinging Patterns: The savior of knee pain

a.       A good hip hinge will take tons of stress out of the knee.  If you can’t move well from the hips, your knees take most of this stress and set you up for things like tendonitis.  First, learn the hinge while on the ground with rocking patterns.  Then move to a kneeling position, and finally to a standing position.

3)      Balance: the key to lasting results.

a.       Once your body understands what a good hip hinge feels like, improving balance and strengthening these movements will set the stage for injury resistance and long lasting results. These drills can include single leg squats, deadlifts, step ups, lunges, or any function motion you used throughout the day that requires time on one leg.

So when you are looking at fixing the knee, your chances of long term resolution improve drastically if you focus on the hip and foot. Now, don’t mistake that advice as, “Don’t engage other treatment options.” My purpose here is to help create an movement environment where the knee has a chance to respond better to things like massage, acupuncture, ART, dry needling, etc.  As a person in pain, you play a major role in your healing! 

For more information on treatment or online coaching for sustainable exercise and pain relief, visit or call the office 931-321-1414 to schedule your FREE consultation with Dr. Dunaway.