Poor little knees. Their pain is so often misunderstood. It must be hard to be them.
Did you know that a huge amount of knee pain (at least the knee pain that wanders its way into my practice over and over again) is directly caused by existing problems in the quadriceps muscles or in the calves? It’s true. Sometimes it’s the calves, sometimes it’s a blend, but most often it’s from the quads (a.k.a. the thigh muscles).
Trigger points are where a muscle has bound its fibers together in response to an injury threat or overuse. The injury threat usually stems from something “of the moment”. Perhaps you accidentally did the splits one fine day, or you repeatedly tried to lift something so heavy that your muscles started to give out. Trigger points are very effective at stopping you from bigger damage such as muscle tears because they are so painful and will generally make you stop and reconsider what you are doing. Interestingly, they can be trickier to resolve than a tear.
But what does this have to do with your knee? Well, once you have formed a trigger point in your quad or calf, that trigger point may well start to refer, meaning it will send sensation, usually pain, to other parts of the body. Quadriceps trigger points are especially famous for referring into the knee. They also love the hip and low back.
So before you rush out and lop off your kneecap from the knee pain you’re having during your runs, walks, or saunters, find someone to help you work through your leg muscles. You’ll probably be amazed by what you find.
- Isabel Spradlin is a Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), and abdominal adhesion specialist in Portland, OR. She specializes in educating people about manual treatment (massage) for abdominal pain and dysfunction, especially when it is adhesion related. Please see the "Programs" page to see her offerings.