Do you feel a sharp or nagging pain in your hip that makes walking, sitting or even lying down a chore? Do you have a painful, unstable knee that feels as if it may buckle at any moment? Either of these sensations can seriously interfere with your lifestyle — and if you’re experiencing both at the same time, you may find even simple tasks impossible. That’s when it’s time to turn to physical therapy. Our Chicago physical therapists can help you manage your hip and/or knee pain issues safely and without drugs or surgery, so contact PREP Performance Center in Lincoln Square, Irving Park, Lakeview, Horner Park, Roscoe Village & Ravenswood Chicago, IL today for an appointment!
What is hip and knee pain?
Hip and knee pain can appear as either separate or combined phenomena. The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that relies on a number of strong muscles and other tissues to keep it mobile and stable as it supports the weight of your upper body. The knee is more of a hinge joint, generally confining itself to forward and backward motion. It must support even more weight than the hip joint while also allowing you to run, dance, walk, or stand.
Pain in either of these joints may originate in the joint itself, or it may be referred from another part of the body. A problem in the hip joint can transmit pain signals to the knee and vice versa. Since the knees and hips are both parts of your kinetic chain (the chain of weight-bearing joints that must work together for correct posture), an imbalance in one joint may create undue stress and deterioration in the other.
Causes of hip and knee pain
Because they contain similar structures and are subject to similar stresses, the knees and hips can suffer from many of the same disorders, injuries, and diseases. Both may suffer acute injuries such as strains, sprains, and dislocation. They are also subject to repetitive motion and overuse injuries, such as tendinitis and chronic muscle strain. Referred pain from a pinched sciatic nerve root can travel down through the hip to the knee, causing pain and other symptoms in both areas. An unbalanced stance or gait can cause abnormal stress and premature wear in both parts of the kinetic chain, resulting in arthritis.
Other pain problems are specific to one joint or the other. For instance, the Mayo Clinic notes that hip pain may issue from a cartilage injury called a labral tear, while knee pain may be due to bursitis (inflammation of the bursa sacs) in or around the knee joint. To make matters worse, a painful instability in your hip can cause knee problems. Tight hip flexor muscles and weak gluteus medius muscles can cause the hip to rotate inward without your realizing it. This puts stress on the knee and kneecap, causing painful issues such as patellofemoral stress syndrome and iliotibial band friction syndrome.
How physical therapy can help hip and knee pain
Physical therapy can often relieve (or greatly reduce) hip and knee pain, sparing you the need for medication or surgical correction. In addition to examining the hip and/or knee itself for signs of structural damage or misalignment, our Chicago physical therapists will also study your posture, stance, gait, and pain-free range of motion. We can then prescribe the right forms of physical therapy to help normalize joint function and relieve unnatural stresses and strains.
Exercises can help stabilize weak hip and knee tissues, potentially relieving pain in both joints. For example, research has shown that kneecap pain responds better to a combination of hip and knee strengthening exercises than it does to knee exercises alone. Exercises designed to strengthen your core (including lower abdominal, pelvic, and lower back muscle groups) can straighten your posture, equalizing the weight load on both sides of the body. Massage, heat, ice, laser therapy, and other soft tissue treatments can help promote healing and ease pain in damaged hip or knee tissues.
Ready to make friends with your hips and knees again? Contact us at Prep Performance Center Lincoln Square, Irving Park, Lakeview, Horner Park, Roscoe Village & Ravenswood Chicago, IL centers to schedule an evaluation!