One of the most valuable things I use in my chiropractic exam is functional screening, which is looking at how the body’s joints move. It gives me insight into patterns of motion that can result in pain and dysfunction. For example, the knee is particularly vulnerable to altered biomechanics in other parts of the body.
The knee is, most basically, a hinge.
Because of this, it is significantly affected by the biomechanics of the hip, pelvis, and ankle/foot. Joint restrictions and/or muscular imbalances in these areas are incredibly common from everyday activities like sitting, improper footwear, or repetetive activities. The patterns that we create in our everyday life change the way our joints move and can cause stress in joints and tissues that are farther away.
For example, when the gluteus medius muscle is weak or inhibited (not firing when or how we want it to), it does not properly compress the hip joint. This causes the thigh bone, or femur, to change its angle, resulting in increased pressure on the inner part of the knee joint. The medial/inside part of the knee is usually the first place that arthritis shows up on x-ray of the knee. Slight narrowing of the joint (inside the circle below) is the first physical indicator that the knee is under stress.
Clinically, knee issues show up as pain! Remember, knee pain may not be a problem with the knee!
As a chiropractor, I evaluate to see which muscles or joints are impacting the function of the knee and work with you to strengthen or stretch them appropriately. Many times it is the gluteus medius, but can also be a number of other muscles or tissues.
When it comes to aches and pains, it is important to have a professional evaluate your mechanics for you- you cannot appropriately assess yourself. Only when you know what the true problem is, can you correct it with exercises, stretches, and joint manipulation. Otherwise you can create new problems!
I am a prime example of this. When I was working on my internship to complete my Masters in Sport Science and Rehabilitation, I spent many hours each week in a PT clinic helping to evaluate patients and work with them on their exercises. Thinking that I was helping myself, I did all of the exercises with the patients. In 4 months, I had increased my knee pain, given myself plantar fascitis, and irritated my pelvic joints. Not all of those exercises were appropriate for my body and its previous sports injuries. It took being evaluated for my own movement patterns and months of diligent corrective exercises to undo what I thought was going to help me.
Understanding how your body works and starting from a basic analysis can help to diagnose problem areas and correct problems before they begin. Pain is a warning sign that something is not right within the body. Before you cover it up or dismiss your pain, get assessed and see what can be done to strengthen and support your body.