I had been experiencing pain in around both knees recently and it reminded me of a couple of articles by Art Riggs on knee pain and various aspects that need to be taken into consideration when treating it.
Knee pain can come in many forms from meniscal damage to condromalacia but often overlooked are simple muscular/fascial problems in the clamour for something “exciting” to be the problem. When we do get injured or suffer from any of the number of knee conditions that can affect the movement of the knee the condition/injury is often our main concern but we forget that these problems all result in the knee not functioning properly. We develop compensatory movement patterns due to the pain that affects the knee from the condition/injury or the surgery carried out to repair the damaged area. Sendentary individuals can develop similar problems due to the fact that the knee is flexed for long periods of the day reuslting in the inability to fully extend the knee.
The limping that can occur after an injury or surgery can affect the hip, knee and ankle long after the the intial problem is apparently fixed. One factor which is often overlooked is the lack of ability to fully extend the knee. This may occur due to swelling initially and results in changes in gait which can effect the hip and ankle resulting in a negative feedback loop where each area prevents the others from working correctly so that the what started as a knee problem becomes a whole leg/hip issue where the lack of a full range of movement affects each of the joints if the limping pattern reamins for any length of time.
Aside from the big name problems “simple” unbalanced development in the quadriceps group can be another source of pain. Vastus lateralis is often better developed than the other muscles in the quadracep group causing rotational strain on the knee and can cause patella tracking issues amongst other problems. General tightness in the fascia of the quaraceps can cause the pattella to be pulled upwards and again impact on how it tracks and not forgetting tight knee flexors on their own can cause a lot of the issues mentioned above.
So as you can see dealing with knee pain is often not simply an issue of dealing with the knee andit’s surrounding tissues. Making sure you get rid of your knee pain can, and more often will, mean not just work on making sure the knee flexes and extends but that the tibia/femur glide properly over one another that there is no restriction in dorsi and plantar flexion and that the hip flexes and extends fully. So, in other words, a knee pain could be consideered not to be just a knee problem but a leg problem.