Can Chiropractic Care Help Reduce My Knee Pain?

Knee pain affects one-third of people in the U.S. every year. It’s the second most common cause of chronic pain. Unfortunately, it makes sense. The weight-bearing joint is crucial in helping us move about in our daily lives. Whether you are looking to explore long-distance hiking or just run a few errands pain-free, here’s how seeing a chiropractor for knee pain can help.

How Does Chiropractic Care for Knee Pain Work?

Chiropractic care may have a reputation for cracking backs and popping necks and shoulders, but our work goes well beyond that misinformed stereotype. Yes, the focus of chiropractic care is on alignment, but it’s specifically interested in both alignment and function. Chiropractic techniques for knee pain focus on the health of the joint itself, ensuring proper function.

This is important because your knee is a complex joint. The knee joins four bones: the femur, the tibia, the fibula, and the patella. Supporting those bones are the quadriceps in front of the knee and the hamstrings in the back. Ligaments and cartilage form an intricate network of connections that help stabilize the knee. These include:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): Prevents the femur from moving backward onto the tibia
  • Posterior cruciate  ligament (PCL): Prevents the femur from sliding forwards
  • Medical and lateral collateral ligaments: Provides support inside and outside of the knee

The meniscus (lateral and medial) is tissue that provides ease of movement between the femur and the tibia. Another type of cartilage provides the same function behind the patella. Cushioning all of this are bursae, fluid filled sacs that help comfortable movement.

Chiropractors have over 150 techniques they can use to bring your joints back into alignment. Seeing a chiropractor for knee pain can address many of the issues we’ll discuss below.

More than that, chiropractors are looking at whole-body wellness. The knee may be where you feel pain, but that pain may be a symptom of another issue in your body. The goal of chiropractic care for knee pain is to not only help with the pain but to also help the entire body heal unencumbered.

What Types of Knee Pain Could Benefit from Chiropractic Care?

Due to the complexity and the role they play in movement, our knees are vulnerable to injury and deterioration due to many wear-and-tear conditions. Some common cause of knee pain include:

  • Dislocated kneecap
  • Knee bursitis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee)
  • IT band syndrome
  • Gout
  • Loose or injured tissue or bone
  • Tendinitis and tendinosis
  • Torn meniscus
  • Torn ACL
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Overuse (as occurs during long runs, hikes, or bike rides)

When should you see your chiropractor for knee pain?

There are certain types of knee pain that respond well to chiropractic care, and a few that don’t. Let’s look at these in more detail.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a wear-and-tear condition that affects the ligaments, tendons, and cartilage of the knee. Over time, these structures begin to wear out, causing painful bone-on-bone contact. This wear can be increased by poor gait or inadequate footwear. If you are experiencing this type of knee pain, chiropractic care can help stabilize and align the joint while increasing your range of motion for more comfort

Research has shown that manual knee adjustments helped significantly decrease knee pain while improving mobility.

Runner’s Knee

You don’t need to be a runner to suffer from runner’s knee. This condition (also called patellofemoral pain syndrome) occurs when the bones in the knee aren’t lining up properly. This causes pain in the kneecap and a popping or clicking sound when you move. Misalignment anywhere from the hips to the ankles can cause the knees to be misaligned, so it can be a good type of pain to treat with chiropractic care, as many areas may be affected.

Tears to ligaments and tissues

Since chiropractic care for knee pain does not just focus on the pain symptom alone, tears to ligaments and tissues in the knee often benefit from it.

While research on specific types of tears and strains is limited, many chiropractic patients report they are able to avoid invasive surgery to treat these conditions. If needed, your chiropractor will refer patients to the appropriate specialist.

Referred Pain

In some cases, knee pain does not actually originate in your knee. Pain that is caused elsewhere in the body is called “referred pain.” The  most common type of referred pain is either caused by compression of the sciatic nerve in your lower back or by injury or damage in the sacroiliac joint. Even injuries to the cervical spine can cause pain in the knees.

Chiropractic care for knee pain that is referred can help resolve not only that pain, but also pain elsewhere in the body that could be the root cause of the knee pain.

Which knee conditions should not be treated with chiropractic care?

It’s important to note that chiropractic care for knee pain is not recommended when your pain is inflammatory in nature. For example, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and an active flare-up of knee inflammation should not be treated with chiropractic techniques. Talk to your chiropractor about referring you to the best specialist in these cases.

What Does a Chiropractor For Knee Pain Do?

Chiropractors are interested in locating where the structure of the knee is off and causing pain in its function. Below are some of the basic services they provide in their office, plus an overview of exercises for knee pain that they might recommend for you to do at home.

Chiropractic techniques for knee pain

As chiropractors look at the whole body, some of the chiropractic techniques for knee pain may start away from the knee. They may start with the spine, making sure you are aligned using different types of chiropractic adjustments. The most common type, direct thrust, is also the most well known. While this technique is not appropriate for the knee, it can be a good place to start for referred pain conditions.

Instead, more specific chiropractic joint adjustments include:

  • Articulatory: A slow movement through the joint’s range of motion
  • Myofascial release: Pressure applied to stiff areas and then released to help free up tightness
  • Functional technique: When the joint reaches the end of its range of motion, gentle pressure is applied until it releases

Your care will be customized to your specific type of pain and what your chiropractor finds during your initial consultation.

Chiropractic exercises for knee pain focus on strengthening the muscle above and below the knee while working to increase range of motion. They might include:

  • Full or half squats
  • Calf raises
  • Seated quadriceps lift, with or without weight
  • Heal and calf stretches
  • Side leg raises (with or without a resistance band)

Your pain and underlying condition is as unique as you are. Always work with your chiropractor before attempting any of these exercises as we determine which will best support your healing.

How Does a Chiropractor Diagnose the Root Cause of Your Knee Pain?

Your Chiropractor will spend your first session establishing the root cause of your knee pain, assessing your health history, and discussing your goals.

Because there are so many possible root causes for knee pain and so many health and lifestyle triggers that can aggravate it, getting proper diagnosis and a personalized care plan requires seeing a neuro-musculoskeletal professional.

Your chiropractor will examine your lumbar spine (low back). When your lumbar spine nerves, which supply the muscles around your knee joint, become damaged (by anything from arthritis, trauma or slipped discs) you may feel pain in your knee.

Your chiropractor will also check whether your pelvis is out of alignment, causing your body weight to be distributed on your legs unevenly, destabilizing your knee. This is an example of referred pain that we have discussed.

Chiropractors specialize in tracking referred pain, just as they track and treat joint misalignment and muscle weakness. After a thorough exam, your chiropractor will be able to tell you whether your pain is being caused by:

  • Misaligned knees
  • Misaligned lumbar vertebrae that are referring nerve stress and pain to your knees
  • Misaligned pelvis referring nerve stress and pain from your hip
  • Weak thigh muscles that are putting stress on your knees
  • Lagging ankle mobility causing you to alter your knee position
  • Overuse of your knee muscles

Only after identifying and assessing the location and degree of your joint damage will your chiropractor begin to craft your personalized care plan. The medical history, chiropractic exam, and additional evaluations are all used to design your care plan. The care plan details which adjustments you will receive, how often, and what other complementing care your chiropractor recommends.

Frequently Asked Questions about Care Plans

How many sessions will I have?

Depending on the condition, you may visit us between one to three times a week in the acute phase, gradually tapering off as your body begins to realign and symptoms improve. Many patients begin to see positive effects of chiropractic for knee pain after one to four weeks of care.

What about recovery time?

The recovery time after sessions are usually minimal. The majority of patients continue about their day with no stopping. If you are new to chiropractic care, it makes sense to take it easy. Swap the intense workout for a more modest pace, and make sure you stay hydrated and eat healthy food to support overall wellness.

Are there side effects?

There are very few side effects or risks of chiropractic care for knee pain. General soreness is most common.

Will it hurt?

Most chiropractic adjustments are pain free. Some patients may feel tense though, or may tense up during adjustments. This may cause some discomfort in the beginning.

Your chiropractor can help you to relax with breathing techniques. It also helps if you understand what will be happening before it happens. For some, the unknown is what causes tension. Education can help! Ask your chiropractor any questions you have.

Greater Life Chiropractic has many different ways to manage your knee pain

Our goal is to help you live a full life with less pain. If you are interested in exploring chiropractic care for knee pain (or have questions about our other relief options) get in touch today.