Causes and Effects of Common Knee Pain

Why the common ailments we associate with knee pain like "Runner's Knee" may not tell the whole story behind the symptoms.

Runner's Knee

Medical conditions linked to activities, like Golfer's Elbow, Tennis Elbow and Runner's Knee, are intriguing. The human body is designed to perform an abundance of motions and movements, so blaming an activity for elbow or knee pain creates a convenient scapegoat for not doing what our bodies were meant to do.

Have you ever approached the starting line of a 5K race or a marathon and been overcome with fear because you experienced knee pain on your last few training runs. The discomfort wasn't really bad, but you got it checked out. The diagnosis: Runner's Knee.

You were probably told that you increased your mileage too quickly, ran too much every week, or simply need new shoes. But are those things really responsible? I'm pretty sure both knees ran the same number of miles, increased their mileage at the same time, and that both feet wore the same shoes.

Debunking the Myths

Body Diagram

When clients come in with "Runner's Knee," I enjoy getting them to think outside of the box about their condition. When they do so, they often realize that the source of their pain is not where it hurts. Usually the root cause of the pain is somewhere else in the body. Remember the old song about the knee bone being connected to the thigh bone? There's actually a lot of truth there.

The body follows a 90-degree rule. A side view should show a vertical line running through the ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle, as in the illustration. A front or back view should show horizontal lines running through the middle of the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Essentially all the joints line up on the grid, and if there is any deviation, chronic pain is either present or right around the corner. Once the structural integrity of the body is compromised, you are operating on borrowed time.

So the reason your knee hurts is actually because its structural integrity has been compromised, and it's doing a job it was not designed to do. It has less to do with how far you're running, how often you run or what shoes you wear.

Action Plan

So what's the secret to eliminating pain in the knee (and incidentally the low back, neck, hip and plantar fasciitis)? Restoring your body to its original design blueprint. The following exercises balance the body, restore full range of motion in the load joints and eliminate pain. However, they can achieve these results only if you perform the exercises. That's the key: to fix your condition, you have to work at it.

The following exercises need to be done daily to realign the body and keep it balanced. At minimum, they should be completed prior to an activity—running, golf, lifting weights, kickboxing class, etc.

Static Back

Sets/Time: 1x5 minutes

To Perform:

  • Lie on back with legs up on a chair or couch
  • Position arms at 45-degree angle with palms up
  • Try to relax your upper back
  • Notice if your low back is evenly flat, from left to right
  • Remain in this position for the entire five minutes

Hip Crossover Stretch

Sets/Time: 1x1 minute  each side

To Perform:

  • Lie on back with both knees bent and feet flat on floor pointed straight ahead
  • Place arms out to side at shoulder level
  • Cross right ankle over left knee and rotate ankle/knee junction to left, resting foot on floor
  • Look in opposite direction and relax shoulders
  • Press right knee away from body with muscles of right hip
  • Repeat on opposite side

Pelvic Tilt

Sets/Reps: 1x10

To Perform:

  • Lie on back with knees bent and hips, knees and feet aligned
  • Roll hips backward to flatten back to floor, then roll hips forward to arch low back
  • Remember to relax upper back
  • Repeat for specified reps

Standing Arm Circles

Sets/Reps: 1x40 each direction

To Perform:

  • Stand with feet pointed straight ahead
  • Close fingertips into pads of hands and point thumbs straight out; this hand position, called "golfer's grip," is important to do the exercise correctly
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together and bring arms out to sides at shoulder level
  • With palms facing down, circle up and forward for specified reps
  • With palms facing up, circle down and back for specified reps
  • Remember to keep feet straight and shoulder blades squeezed together

Contact the Egoscue Nashville clinic via email at or by phone at 615.771.8556 with any questions you may have.

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