PT eDigest

PTD0814-leadKnees Hurt?Strengthen Your Hips

Does your knee hurt when you walk, run or climb stairs? If so, you have plenty of company. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Americans make more than 19 million physician visits each year for knee pain. Although osteoarthritis is the most common cause of knee pain in individuals over age 55, knee pain in younger, active people may be caused by biomechanical and alignment problems related to deficits in the hip muscles.

The muscles that control hip movement are some of the strongest in the body. Hip flexor muscles pull the knee upward toward the trunk. The gluteus medius and gluteus maximus muscles also move the hip, extending and rotating it laterally. These heavy muscles attach to the femur (thigh bone). And as the old song says, the leg bone connects to the knee bone, and the knee bone connects to the thigh bone. Therefore, if the muscles that attach to the thigh bone are poorly developed, the knee, particularly the patella (kneecap), can shift out of place with each step and cause pain.

Researchers who have looked at front-of-the-knee pain in athletes under age 40 have determined three types of problems that connect hip muscles to knee pain:

  • weak hip muscles
  • tight hip muscles
  • unevenly developed hip muscles

 When study participants performed several weeks of hip muscle strengthening and flexibility exercises, most of them saw changes in leg alignment, and knee pain symptoms improved significantly.

 If hip muscle deficits could be the cause of your knee pain, we can assess your muscle strength and flexibility at a physical therapy visit. We can then work with your physician to devise a series of graduated exercises, such as the pelvic drop, leg raise and hip rotation stretch, that strengthen the appropriate muscles and increase their flexibility with the goal of improving your leg alignment and reducing knee pain.

Download the PTedigest for August 2014