What If Your Knee Pain is Caused by Your Ankles?

Pain Connections

Pain Connections

Are you ignoring that pain when you walk? When you get out of bed and continue to go about your day?

At Preferred Physical Therapy we help people with lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder, and knee pain daily… and it’s safe to say that imbalances or asymmetries” in the body are the number one root cause of chronic pain and tissue breakdown over time.

Muscle imbalances are also a factor in most other pain conditions too.

Imbalances are often easy to spot because not many people understand precisely what they are and how to recognize them (including most doctors!)…

The most common advice you get for things like lower back, knee, and neck pain not only fails to bring you the relief you’re after – but it can also make your pain WORSE in the long run because they only offer a short term mask or cover-up.

For instance, you might have heard from several professionals, family members, and friends that you need to “strengthen your back” to get rid of the pain…

While this may be true in some cases, if the muscle imbalances associated with your pain have been there for a while and have been tight for months (even years) then many exercises will aggravate them even more!

So in today’s post, I want to help you understand how to recognize your own muscle imbalances, explain how they can cause pain in different parts of your body and what you can do to ease the pain…

Got neck pain and headaches? It could be your shoulders…

An easy way to find out if there’s an imbalance in your shoulder is to stand in front of a mirror and see if one shoulder is higher than the other.

If one shoulder is higher – then there’s an imbalance, and it could mean there’s less room for your shoulder to move fully. When tension builds up in your shoulder muscles – the pain signal is sent to your neck.

To fix it, try this single-arm doorway stretch:

Stand inside a door frame at home, and place your right/left forearm on the inside of the door. Rest your palm on the door frame at about shoulder height. When you’re in this position twist your chest slightly through the door to stretch your chest.

This stretch will open your chest muscles and create more room in your shoulder for movement.

If your shoulders are really tight, getting a regular massage can help release the tension and align them again – helping to instantly relieve your neck pain naturally in the short term.

But what if your shoulders are even? Your headaches could be from a forward-leaning head…

If when you look in the mirror you don’t see an imbalance in the height of your shoulders, turn to the side – of your head is leaning further forward than your shoulders, this could decrease the amount of blood flow to your head and neck, causing headaches. You’ll have to ask a friend to help with this because you won’t be able to turn your head and see if it is in front of your shoulders.

Have chronic back pain? Click here to learn about an at-home low back pain program.


Knee pain when you walk or run? It could be your hips…

The knee has two bad neighbors – the hip and the ankle, meaning the pain you feel in your knee could very well stem from tightness and immobility in those places.

An easy way to find out if your hips have a good range of motion is to lay on your back in a doorway so that the middle of your kneecap is right on the threshold. Relax your arms at your sides with your palms up. Bring your feet together, toes pointed at the ceiling. Pull your toes towards your shins to create a 90-degree angle at the ankle. Keep one leg straight and still as you slowly raise the other leg until either your knee bends on your raising leg, or your bottom foot bends or turns outwards.

You should be able to get your raising leg up to 90 degrees so it can rest on the wall next to you. Do the same thing on the other side. If your knee has to bend to allow it to rest on the wall you have tight hamstrings and glutes. If your resting leg’s toes rotate out when you raise your leg up it means you have tight glutes.

But what if your hips are moving ok? Check your ankles…

If your hips are mobile (and even if they’re not!) your ankles can also cause knee pain.

To see how mobile your ankles are (or aren’t), get into a one-knee position facing a wall. Your knee and hip should both form 90-degree angles, and the toe of your planted foot should be about four inches (a palm width) from the wall. In this position try to glide your knee over the little toe to touch the wall without lifting your heel. If you can reach the wall, your ankle is gliding correctly. If your heel comes up before your knee touches the wall, your calves are “incredibly tight”, and they need loosening!

Got low-back pain? It might be your hips…

As with knee pain, back pain often isn’t a back problem at all. If one side of your pelvis is higher than the other, it can trigger back pain, hip pain, groin pain, or even knee pain.

Unevenness in your hips can pull on your lower back, causing tightness while sitting all day.

So the next question is – what can you do to fix these imbalances and finally live with less pain?

First off, you need to make a decision about getting help. Many people procrastinate for so long, thinking that the pain will ‘just go away with time, but then 6 months down the line they’re still putting up with it, and nothing’s changed… Or it gets worse.

Next, do the RIGHT exercises – one of the best things to help you ease your neck, shoulder, knee, or back pain is to do the right series of progressed exercises – the right exercises given to you by a Physical Therapist will help reduce pain, and allow you to move freely again quickly – and make sure that the problems don’t come back any time soon.

If you think one of the issues discussed today explains your hip pain, just follow the link to schedule a Phone Call or Discovery Session and let us know which one (or ones) you are concerned about.

If you want more urgent assistance, call in directly at 623-486-3333 and we get you scheduled.

Nick Hunter, PT, DPT

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