Spinal adjustments are an even better treatment for knee pain than rehab exercises
I was a bit shocked myself when I read this. Therapeutic exercise has proven value for almost any musculoskeletal condition, so when I saw this recent research paper in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders I was eager to learn more about how the chiropractic adjustments I use get even better results.
The researchers looked at a group of individuals with pain in the front of the knee related to the interplay of the quadriceps muscle and the kneecap which is embedded in it. This is a common condition, usually called patellofemoral syndrome or PFS. It’s also commonly called “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee” and it’s also been known as chondromalacia patellae.
One group of knee-pain sufferers was given once-per-week physical therapy visits during which they were trained in exercises to strengthen the muscles of the knee and hip joint and were instructed to practice the exercises at home two additional days per week.
The second group was given once-per-week chiropractic sessions to evaluate the mobility of the joints of the lower spine, pelvis, and hip, and receive adjustments (“manipulation”) when an alteration of joint play was detected. Their home exercise program consisted of limbering exercises for the low back.
Both groups improved with six weeks of treatment and maintained improvement for an additional six weeks thereafter. But the group given spinal adjustments improved considerably more.
How can that be?
Here are two reasons why spinal adjustments are effective for knee pain:
- The stress on the quadriceps and patella depends on how the body mass above it is balanced. If the weight of the entire body is passing down through the knee at an inefficient angle, the knee joint has to handle a bigger load, leading to more pain. Spinal adjustments fix this issue.
- The nerves that monitor the joints of the lower back and pelvis overlap with those that monitor the knee joint. So if these nerves are busy juggling with faulty signals streaming in from the low back, their ability to guide knee motion efficiently will be impacted. Chiropractic adjustments regulate the nerve feedback from the joints and muscles of the spine.
The “all-of-the-above + more” treatment plan for patellofemoral problems
When I treat patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome, I first conduct a thorough examination to be sure I understand the issues as fully as possible. Then I follow the “all of the above + even more” treatment strategy. This combines both of the interventions that were studied in this research. Plus I add in a few additional helpful elements.
1. I check the joints of the hip, pelvis and low back and work to free them as needed. I check for free glide of the patella, too. And motion of the ankle and foot often plays a role.
2. I show you effective rehab exercises for the knee.
3. I help you build awareness of well-organized posture and the effective use of your body in action. It’s not enough to have muscle strength; you have to have a clear idea of how proper posture works and feels internally. Then your brain can guide movement correctly.
4. I perform hands-on treatment of the muscles and connective tissues around the knee. This helps the soft tissues heal more quickly and gain resilience to stress.
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