As a practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, there are some conditions that are a challenge to treat and some that are fairly easy. I like to see patients with knee pain, because acupuncture is an effective treatment, and those patients usually leave happy and feeling much better.
There are a number of causes of knee pain, some of which can be controlled and some which can’t. Here are a few common factors that can cause your knees to rebel.
-Sex. No, not that kind of sex, but whether you are a woman or a man. That’s because women tend to have wider hips, which create an inverted triangle shape between their hips and knees. This wider angle can put a strain on women’s knees, especially if they are very athletic. In contrast, because men’s hips are narrower, they don’t have the same kind of strain on their knees.
-Age. As you get older, the natural cushioning between the bones in your knees, called cartilage, wears away. This causes the bones to rub against each other, creating inflammation, pain, bone spurs, and ultimately osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the number one reason people undergo knee replacement surgery.
-Overuse. Doing the same motion repetitively over many years can injure or wear down your knees. Overuse injuries can run the gamut from osteoarthritis to runner’s knee. Most commonly, we see people with these kinds of injuries who are distance runners or who play racquet sports.
-Funky mechanics. Every once in a while, I will drive by someone riding a bike and want to yell at them to raise their bike seat. Bad mechanics, like an improperly positioned bike seat, irregular gait, and poor form lifting weights can be a recipe for serious knee pain. If you suspect that poor mechanics is the cause of your knee pain, consult an expert: get your bike fitted at a reputable bike shop, work with a trainer, or get your gait analyzed by a physical therapist or running coach.
-Weight. Your knees are the workhorses of your legs, and when you gain weight, your knees are taking the brunt of it. Think about it–if you were to walk everywhere, go up and down stairs, and get in and out of your car carrying a twenty pound barbell, your knees would start to complain. It’s the same thing when you gain twenty pounds. Your knees won’t be happy.
-Bad shoes. While your shoes are meant to support your feet, bad or worn out ones affect everything upstream as well–your knees, hips, and even your back. It’s important to buy good, supportive shoes and replace them when they become worn. In addition, if you love your feet and knees, you won’t wear cheap flip flops with no arch. And don’t even get me started on high heels.
-The nature of your physical activity. If you are a runner, your knees are subjected to a repetitive forward motion. In contrast, if you play racquet sports, your knees are stressed by quick side-to-side movements. Each has it own risks for different kinds of knee pain and injuries. This is also true of biking, hiking, swimming, dancing, and any other sport in which you’re on your feet. My best advice? Mix up your activities.
-Trauma. Unfortunately, this is one factor you can’t control. Whether it’s a fall, accident, or bad twist, trauma to your knees is a common cause of lingering knee pain.
At Acupuncture in the Park, we see many patients who have knee pain. Clearly, the nature of the pain and the underlying cause plays a huge role in the outcome of our treatments. While acupuncture can’t undo structural problems involving your knee, it can help manage the pain quite well, prolong the need for replacement surgery, and speed the healing process. After a detailed intake and health history, a typical treatment would involve acupuncture, the use of far-infrared heat, and electric stimulation to accomplish our goals.
While many people may not think about acupuncture for their knee pain, those who do are pleasantly surprised. A few sessions on the acupuncture table may be all it takes to get you on your feet again.