Knee pain can affect anyone at any age. It affects athletes and people who are more active in their daily lives. Some of the most common causes of knee pain are injuries to the ligaments, muscles, tendons, or cartilage in the knee.
Most people believe that knee pain results from swelling, either affecting the peri-anal joint, which is directly below the knee, or a torn cartilage ligament, causing instability in the knee. While it’s true that both of those conditions can bring about knee pain, it isn’t always clear how to separate them. Sometimes, people have pain even when they’re injured, but not when they’re bent over, sometimes. Orthotics can sometimes solve this problem.
So how does one differentiate between these different types of injuries? One way is with a physical therapy or orthopedic specialist, who can diagnose you and provide gait retraining exercises. During a gait retraining session with a physical therapist or osteopathic doctor, they will examine the patient’s gait, back anatomy, running mechanics, and biomechanics. Once they’ve determined which area of the knee is affected, they will design a program that will target that area with special exercises.
The most common cause of knee pain is over-extension, where too much weight is placed on the front part of the knee. With this type of over-extension comes stress on the inner condyles of the patella and on the structures surrounding it. The goal of the gait retraining exercise is to strengthen these structures, as well as correct any abnormal gait that may be causing strain. During the gait retraining exercise, patients will be instructed to walk without changing stride length, as well as with their feet pointed the same way every time. They’ll be given a chart to follow during the intervention so that they can track progress over time.
Over-extension of the patella and patellar tendon is also believed to be the most common cause of knee pain among women, which is called runner’s knee. This condition results from a weak quadriceps, which weakens the hip abductors. Runner’s knee is often characterized by a strong kinematics, or quick step, with a sudden dip at the knee. The dips are caused by excessive pronation, which weakens the fascia and puts additional stress on the joint. Runners can address this condition through gait retraining.
Hormonal changes that accompany puberty are another possible cause of knee pain that many young women experience. A study of 6 women who were diagnosed with adolescent rheumatoid arthritis found that all had excessive female hormones. These hormones cause the cartilage to become more thin, which may increase the risk of joint damage. Through a study of the effects of gait retraining, female arthritis sufferers improved their gait speed, despite the normal effects of estrogen on the body. The treatment gave positive results in all 6 women, and was successful in reducing arthritic knee pain significantly.