Hips Can Keep Knees in the Right Groove

A catch in your knee can cause you to stop activity quickly.  Whether you're climbing stairs, or bending to get something on the ground, once your knee catches, you feel it.

Chronic knee pain, known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, may be relieved by strengthening the thigh and hip muscles.  "Exercises that strengthen the quadriceps in the thighs and also the hip muscles can help get knees back in their proper groove," said John Noble, MD, orthopaedic surgeon with Center for Orthopaedics.

This common knee problem causes pain under and around the kneecap, and usually worsens from activity or prolonged inactivity. While the exact cause is unknown, it is affected by the way the kneecap, or patella, moves on the groove of the thigh bone, or femur.  When the patella is misaligned, it can cause pain.  "Tightness in the quadriceps and hamstring muscles contribute to this problem," said Dr. Noble.

A group of physical therapists from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City conducted a study on 35 patients suffering from patellofemoral pain.  The participants received six weeks of physical therapy that was focused on strengthening and improving flexibility in hip muscles.  They found that strengthening the hip flexors, the muscles that bring the thigh and torso toward each other, made the most difference.

In addition to strengthening the hip-related muscles, it also helps the overall health of the knee to reduce impact.  People who are prone to knee injuries should be careful of jogging or playing a sport that causes pounding on the knee joints, such as basketball or tennis. Cycling can also cause patellofemoral pain.  Instead, brisk walking is a good alternative, as is swimming or low-impact aerobics.  "Elliptical trainers at gyms are also a great choice. The machine moves with you, supporting your weight as you work out," suggested Dr. Noble.

The shoes you choose to exercise in can also play a part in knee problems.  Regular exercisers may find it helpful to buy new shoes every few months, because when shoes break down, they lose some of their support.  "If you're under the care of a physician or physical therapist, bring your shoes in for them to examine.  They may be able to see where you could improve on finding a properly-fitting shoe, and give tips on what to look for to get a good, supporting shoe," Dr. Noble said.

Exercise, especially ones to strengthen the muscles in the hip and legs, should help relieve the knee pain.  It's always best to receive a thorough exam by a qualified physician to diagnose physical concerns.  There are many types of knee pain, and by working with a physician, an individualized treatment plan can be coordinated.

For more information on knee pain, call the Center for Orthopaedics at 721-7CFO (7236).