Knee pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal problems that people face. It is the second most common cause of chronic pain (pain lasting longer than 3 months), and it is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans will experience knee pain at some point in their lives. Women are more likely than men to experience knee pain, and other risk factors such as age, weight, overexertion, and tobacco use can all contribute to the growing population of people who experience this potentially debilitating condition. In fact, for every pound you are overweight, it adds an extra 4 pounds of stress to the knee joints. This incredible amount of stress on these joints is a key indicator of whether or not someone will experience knee pain at some point in time.
The knee is a joint where the femur bone in the thigh meets the tibia bone in the leg. It is a hinge joint, meaning most of its movement occurs back and forth in the same plane of motion. This is largely due to the muscles and ligaments that provide a lot of stability to this joint. Within the knee joint are 2 strong ligaments that cross over one another. These are known as the cruciate ligaments, of which the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is commonly heard in relation to sports injuries. There are also ligaments along the sides of the knee called the collateral ligaments, which keep the knee from rotating too much. The menisci (singular: meniscus) are pads of cartilage that line the knee joint and provide extra protection from the forces of both weight and gravity. Finally, there are many muscles such as the quadricep muscles that surround, support, and move the knee joint through its range of motions. These soft tissues all have a vital role to play, but are also susceptible to their own unique injuries.
In 2017 alone, there were 966,000 knee replacement surgeries done. Replacement surgery is performed when the knee joint has eroded to the point where there is “bone on bone” and is absent of any joint spacing. However, there are other treatments available that are more natural, less risky, and just as effective in reducing knee pain and improving knee function. For example, chiropractic adjustments to the knee can help correct misalignment that can wear down the joint more rapidly. Proper alignment and improved motion can help decrease pain in the knee joint. Other treatments such as exercise to improve posture, massage, and knee traction (decompression) can get to the heart of the issue and have a lasting effect on the function of your knee. Because ultimately, it is about finding the root cause of your knee pain and working to correct it. That is where the best results exist.
How We Treat Knee Pain in Springfield, IL
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
At the Springfield Wellness Center, your first visit for knee pain will start with a detailed consultation. Our doctors are here to listen to your story and how your knee pain got to this point including any contributing injuries, traumas, or lifestyle factors. They want to document this information so they can more fully understand you as a patient and a person and also get a sense of the effect that knee pain has had on your life. Perhaps knee pain is keeping you from exercising the way you want to, or it keeps you from playing ball with your grandkids. All of this information is crucial in helping the doctors find the cause of your condition.
After the consultation, a detailed knee exam will be performed. The chiropractors will take you through various orthopedic, neurologic, and functional movement testing to assess the function (or dysfunction) of your affected knee. These tests help them identify the problem and allow them to give you their best recommendations for care. As chiropractors, they will also check your spine and nervous system for any nerve interference that may be affecting the nerves that control the muscles around your knee. If further exams such as x-rays are needed, you will be referred out to have those images taken. This wholesome approach gives our doctors great insight into how they can best help you.
Specific Chiropractic Care | Springfield, IL
The primary method by which our doctors treat knee pain at the Springfield Wellness Center is through chiropractic care. The reality is our joints heal by moving and need to be moving properly in order to heal properly. If there is misalignment or restriction in the knee joint, this information is sent to the brain via nerves, and the brain recognizes this as a problem. Chiropractors are able to gently manipulate the knee joint to allow improved range of motion and decreased pain.
It is also possible that the knee is not functioning properly because the muscles that support and move the knee aren’t working properly. The nerves that control these muscles originate in the lumbar spine, and if there is subluxation present that is affecting how the nerves are working, then this too needs to be addressed. Arthritis, whether found in the knee or any other joint, can be slowed down with joint movement. Chiropractic can play a big role in helping to slow down or halt the progression of a condition such as arthritis.
Massage Therapy and Soft Tissue Work
Another common treatment modality used to treat knee pain at the Springfield Wellness Center is soft tissue work. This treatment involves manipulating the soft tissues around the knee, such as the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Many times in cases of knee pain adhesions and restrictions develop in these tissues over time. They decrease range of motion and prevent the knee from moving and functioning optimally. Releasing these adhesions also improves circulation to these areas to ensure they are getting proper oxygen.
Massage therapy and Graston are the 2 primary soft tissue treatments performed on the knee at the Springfield Wellness Center. Our Licensed Massage Therapists use their hands to work through muscle problems to help them heal and function better. They also work through any lower back issues as well that may be causing the nerves to not function properly either in sending information to the knee muscles. Graston is a technique that our chiropractors use that involves using metal tools to break up adhesions in the muscles or tendons. It is commonly used on structures such as the quadricep muscles or Iliotibial (IT) band, and also jumpstarts the healing process as well. Overall, soft tissue work plays a big role in obtaining great results for our patients experiencing knee pain.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
Corrective Exercise is a huge part of everything we do at the Springfield Wellness Center, and this is no different when it comes to treating knee pain. With knee conditions, especially chronic ones such as arthritis, it is a race against the clock to preserve range of motion and optimal function of this vital joint. The less active you are, the more like it is that degeneration will set in and joint space will be lost. Many patients that we see are already experiencing this. However, there is important work to be done to maximize the potential of the knee in these circumstances.
The purpose of our corrective exercise is very simple for knee pain. We need to address any muscle imbalances in the knee that may be contributing to the condition. We also need to properly strengthen the muscles around the knee so they can stabilize the joint and prevent future injury. Outside the knee joint, it is imperative that postural exercises are performed to alter the weight distribution to the knees in a favorable way. Our trainers will customize a care plan for your specific needs and work closely with our doctors to ensure that your goals are being met. Exercise is a critical component of this process, and it can really make the difference for somebody experiencing knee pain.
The most common reason for getting knee replacement surgery is simply because the knee joint has completely worn down. The joint space is gone, the menisci have been worn down, and the femur and tibia bones are basically touching. This operation uses hardware that basically “replaces” the knee joint space altogether. It is a costly maneuver and doesn’t always lead to pain relief for sufferers of this type of knee pain. At The Springfield Wellness Center, we utilize technology that decompresses the knee joint, opens up the joint spacing, and stimulates the healing process. This device is known as the Knee-On-Trac, and it is the only product on the market of its kind.
During treatment on the Knee-On-Trac, you sit comfortably in a chair with your knee secured to the device. The device will slowly and gently stretch the knee back and forth across a 5-10 minute period. This treatment has been shown to decrease inflammation, increase hydration to the joint, increase knee range of motion, and speed up the healing process. In our treatment programs, we will take you through a series of visits that will provide regular care to the knee to help restore motion and function to the affected knee joint.
Common Causes of Knee Pain in Springfield, IL
Degenerative Arthritis (Osteoarthritis)
Perhaps the most common cause of knee pain, especially chronic knee pain, is degenerative arthritis. This condition is classically caused by wear and tear over years and even decades of use. It can also be accelerated by being overweight or obese due to the increased weight stress applied to the knee joints. It typically shows up on one side first, but it can affect both knees over time. From a medical standpoint, it is typically treated with NSAID medications, knee injections, and eventually knee replacement surgery. However, there are more natural options available to treat this common condition.
The Springfield Wellness Center addresses knee pain by getting to the root cause of the issue. If there is an alignment or soft tissue problem, chiropractic and soft tissue therapies are applied. Corrective exercise is always a good way to preserve and improve range of motion in an already-diminishing joint. Our Knee-On-Trac device can decompress the knee joint and increase joint space and range of motion while decreasing. Overall, there are many effective, conservative treatments for degenerative arthritis that are worth trying before moving on to more invasive treatment methods.
Within the knee joint two ligaments connect the thigh bone to the leg bone: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). Of these 2, the ACL is far more likely to be injured. ACL injuries can happen in everyday life, but they most notably occur in the context of sports due to the mechanism of injury. In sports that require rapid change of direction such as soccer, basketball, or football, the ACL can be damaged when the knee gets rotated while the foot is planted. This torquing motion causes fibers in the ACL to tear, and in the worst cases, completely rupture.
ACL treatment depends largely on the extent of the damage. If the ligament is damaged but still intact, it can be rehabilitated through therapies such as rehabilitation exercises, deep tissue laser, vibration therapy, as well as many others. If a complete rupture has occurred, however, it will often require surgical reconstruction of the ligament. This is a severe injury that requires months of steady rehab post-operatively. If you injure your knee playing sports, it is best to have it checked by a healthcare professional who can point you in the right direction.
Another common sports injury that occurs with forceful twisting of the knee joint is a torn meniscus. The meniscus is the thin layer of fibrocartilage that lines the bony surfaces of the knee joint. When you plant the foot, the bones of the knee joint come extremely close together. When rotation of the knee occurs, whether intentional or not, the bones push into the meniscus, causing anything up to a complete tear in the cartilage. This can be very painful and cause lots of swelling and inflammation to develop in and around the knee.
Surgery is a common route for treating a torn meniscus, but it is not always successful. More conservative methods have been shown to be just as effective in rehabilitating even completely torn menisci. Therapies such as deep tissue laser and therapeutic exercises can be extremely effective for healing torn menisci, but it can take time and requires patience in order to make a complete recovery.
Some knee injuries are the result of overuse or repetitive motion, and a particularly common one is known as Runner’s knee. This condition causes pain in the front of the knee, and also either around or behind the knee cap. It develops over time as a result of repetitive activity such as jogging or running. It can cause “creaking” and “cracking” noises to occur in addition to chronic knee stiffness. The amount of force and stress placed on the knee joint during this activity causes the surrounding tissue to become inflamed. However, there is usually no damage to any bones, ligaments, or muscle tendons.
Sometimes, runner’s knee will require some time off of running to let the tissue heal and the inflammation subside. It can also be managed effectively with treatment such as deep tissue laser, which uses light energy to penetrate deep into the tissue and accelerate the healing process by decreasing inflammation. Runners are some of the most dedicated athletes on the planet, and the better they can manage conditions like runner’s knee, the more they can stay out there doing what they love.
Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome
The iliotibial band, more commonly known as the IT band, is the longest muscle tendon in the human body. It is the tendon of a hip muscle called the tensor fascia lata, and it spans down the side of the thigh down to its attachment site past the knee joint. Irritation of the IT band can be felt anywhere along the tendon, but it is especially common to feel discomfort on the outside of the knee. This condition tends to affect athletes such as distance runners and cyclists due to the repetitive movements they perform.
At the Springfield Wellness Center, our doctors utilize the Graston technique to break up any adhesions that have developed in the IT band and to help facilitate the healing process. They will also provide exercises to help provide more muscle balance to the quadriceps which can help further stabilize the knee joint. IT band syndrome can be painful, but recovery is usually very straightforward and does not take very long to heal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a chiropractor in Springfield, IL good for knee pain?
Yes. The chiropractors at the Springfield Wellness Center have the services and training at their disposal to maximize your healing potential from a condition like knee pain. They will first identify the cause of your problem, and then utilize all that the office has to offer in order to help you meet your goals.
When should you see a chiropractor for knee pain?
As quickly as possible. Pain is usually the last symptom to arrive when a problem exists, so by the time you experience pain, the problem has already been there for some time. It is important to address knee pain early so you can minimize the damage and make the best recovery possible. The longer you wait to address knee pain, typically the worse it gets. Stop by the Springfield Wellness Center and see how they can help you.
How do I know if my knee pain is serious?
Your knee pain is serious if it is interfering with your everyday life. Work, hobbies, family activities, etc. are an important part of quality of life. If your knee pain is disrupting these things, you should get it checked out to find out what the best options are to help fix this problem you’re having.
Is walking good for knee pain?
Exercise is definitely good for knee pain, and walking is one of the best types of exercise you can do for it. Walking exercises the leg muscles that move and support the knee, while also not applying very much force to the joint. The key with exercise is to do it consistently, and with walking being an easier activity to perform, it is a great option for you to do if you have knee pain.
Is it better to use heat or ice for knee pain?
Most types of knee pain involve inflammation, so it is recommended that you use ice when treating knee pain at home. Ice will push inflammation away from the source, which can bring pain relief and soothe the achy joint. Heat can attract more blood flow, which could actually increase inflammation at the joint. Therefore, it is best to avoid heat for knee pain.