February 26

The Deceptive Truth About Pain in the Knees

  • Min. Read

The Likely Reasons Behind Your Aching Knees

Pain in the knee isn’t just caused by bad knees. Your hips and ankles are the more likely culprits of those aching knees. There are many reasons why pain in the knees can start, including

  • Overcompensation by other body parts doing their jobs incorrectly
  • Too much mobility, but not enough control
  • Improper alignment

But it’s usually not the fault of the knees themselves! Let’s look further into these reasons.

Pain in the knee

Pain in the knee could mean they’re compensating for other parts of the body that aren’t doing their job properly. While this keeps us moving in the short term, the knees are being asked to handle too much.

This causes extra wear and tear.

The knees are meant to provide stability between the mobility orientated hips and the ankles. They are not meant take charge of movement themselves.

Pain in the knee

When hips have too much mobility but not enough control, the knees take the brunt of the extra force created. Without suitable control, having too much flexibility and movement in the hips can be bad

The body has to absorb that extra momentum somewhere - and the stable knees end up absorbing the force.

Improper alignment might be another cause of knee pain. The bones that connect at the hip joint, knee joint, and ankle joint have specific shapes. They’re meant to work together like gears in a clock.

When the bones in the joints are in good alignment these gears move smoothly. When the hips, knees and ankles are not in alignment it’s like grinding the teeth of a gear down until they eventually can’t do their job. 

Pain in the knee

For proper alignment you can connect the dots from the hip socket, the knee cap, the center of the ankle and the second and third toe. These bony landmarks will make a relatively straight line. Because the knee is positioned between the hips and ankles, the pain in the knees often comes from being the first point of contact for other out of alignment joints.. 

Why The Hips and Ankles Cause Aching Knees

Pain in the knee

The hips and ankles are responsible for tons of movement and control in the body.

Aching knees occur when the hips and ankles are either too rigid or too floppy.

The hips serve as a major axis of movement in the body. They’re the connector between the upper and lower body. The ankles are important to lower body mobility and balance. When the hips and ankles become too rigid or too mobile, the knees act as a substitute.

Any number of things could cause the hips and ankles to stop working as intended:

  • Muscular restrictions around the joints, limiting motion
  • Lack of control over mobility
  • Compensations caused by accidental injuries 
  • Neuromuscular restrictions caused by long term movement imbalances
  • Chronic tightnesses due to habitual training in sports or sedentary lifestyles
Pain in the knee

The hips and ankles are designed for mobility. The knee is meant to provide stability.

When forced to compensate for mobile joints, the connective tissue in the knee can get inflamed or start to deteriorate.

Exercising the joint exclusively isn’t the solution to pain in the knee. It's better to address the mobility and control of the hips and ankles. Trying to relieve knee pain with isolated knee exercises is like trying to take apart all of the gears in the clock without knowing how it goes back together. Isolation helps, but the root cause of the pain is in the relationships between the joints. If you address movement in all of the joints, pain in the knee can be resolved.

How to Relieve Pain in Aching Knees

Relieve pain in the knees by improving mobility and control in the hips and ankles.

Pain in the knee

People think joint pain can be relieved by improving strength and flexibility of muscles. This isn’t always the case.

Flexibility and strength of the muscles around the joint is only part of the picture. Mobility and control within the joints is the other side of the coin. Mobility and flexibility may sound similar but have nuanced differences. The same is true for control and strength. Both concepts are related, but understanding the difference between the two is key to relieving pain in the knee.

Pain in the knee

When you sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Many things can happen

  1. 1
    Your knees may need to bend
  2. 2
    Your spine may round 
  3. 3
    Your shoulders may rise up

All of these are in response to a lack of mobility and control in hip flexion. If you then lie on your back and lift one leg toward the ceiling and wrap a strap around your foot you may find that you have no problem lifting your leg to a 90 degree angle above your hip. Your hamstring is flexible but you don’t have control and mobility in your hip joint. 

Finding control and mobility in the hip joint will decrease the stress on the knees.

Want to Solve Your Knee Pain?

Pain in the knee

So relieving pain in the knee isn’t about the knee, it's about mobilizing the hips and ankles. Great. What kind of exercises are you supposed to do then?

Fitstreams has you covered! The Happy Knees class is designed to give your knees, ankles, and hips the care they need. The class is FREE and gives you a workout that you can do anywhere. 

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About the author

Laurie Johnson

Laurie’s clear and candid cueing makes classes easy to follow without looking at the screen. Her wit and good nature create an enjoyable class that challenges your limits and celebrates your successes.  

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