Why is your knee popping when walking and what does it mean?
Earlier this week a new patient visited who had a painful lower back that started when her first child was born.
While discussing her past history, she mentioned her left knee would always pop when she was in high school. She was never advised by any health professional that there was a problem with the knee and her knee never felt unstable.
As we spoke further, she said that some mornings she would wear a corset to stabilize her lower back before going to her job which required hours of standing. Eventually, an unstable lower back replaced her popping knee. She also in passing mentioned that her lower back would lock up if she didn’t exercise at the gym regularly.
A comprehensive chiropractic evaluation revealed this person in her later 20s had bunyons on both feet, flat feet, and her feet toed in when she would stand. She mentioned that they always toed in since she was younger. She also had what we call a DNA spine due to asymmetry in how she was built and how she adapted to it over the years. It also offered clues as to the possible origin of her popping knee.
When she was on her back her legs were so tight it was difficult to lift them off the table and the fascia (the connective tissue surrounding the area) was very sore and tight.
Was the popping knee a symptom of lower back problems or a gait issue?
A torqued or distorted core is often thought of as scoliosis but often, it is a poor adaptation to growth, and injuries and is more common in women as discussed in my book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain. A torqued core is untrainable because the torsion makes the lower back less stable. A distorted core will also make the legs much tighter over time increasing the likelihood of ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, knee pain, and future back and neck problems. These types of poor adaptive changes will also affect the shoulders causing pain and even rotator cuff tears or frozen shoulder.
Her bunyons and the toeing in of the feet showed that her problems were existing for years.
The evidence suggested her popping knee may have been a symptom of core problems which felt better by going to the gym. While evaluating her feet, she showed me inserts she got from the store she worked which were non-corrective. While squatting during our evaluation, the patient was able to witness the instability of the core while her knees moved laterally as she lost her balance.
To properly evaluate a patient whose knee is popping, we must look at all the facts, perform a deep history and do a holistic thorough evaluation. Had this been done when she was younger, her current lower back problems may have been preventable.
Usually popping joints are hypermobile and tend to pop. This means they move way too much. With hypermobile joints, there are always hypomobile joints that strain the body usually resulting in chronic joint pain. Many of these patients have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia although their problems. A good healthcare provider also should be a great detective. In this patient’s case, proper management will help her knees feel better as well as her lower back,
Treatment of her lower back to relieve the pain and stabilize her core included
- Myofascial release treatment to the lower back, core, and leg muscles.
- Recommendation of an appropriate off-the-shelf insert that leveled her hips out and make her legs feel lighter.
- Spinal manipulation of the lower back and mid back region to improve mobility and function.
Who should you visit first for symptoms of a popping knee or other popping joints?
Chiropractors are primary care providers for the musculoskeletal system. Chiropractic sports physicians have additional training to understand mechanisms of movement and sports injuries as well. Their uniquely holistic approach to the evaluation and treatment of these mechanisms helps them fully understand problems with movement. By using exercise, manipulation of the affected joints, and myofascial release are able to offer their patients a one-stop shop for most problems of the musculoskeletal system.
The idea of a doctor evaluating, another to treat and another doing something else is highly inefficient, often ineffective, and wasteful. Unfortunately, it also describes the medical model in its approach to musculoskeletal problems and many people fail to be helped by this approach.
Keeping care simple and thorough through holistic approaches to care, chiropractors are often the first choice of athletes, student-athletes, and just regular folks looking for better solutions to problems that on the surface look more complex than they actually are. If your body is constantly having physical problems, perhaps a chiropractic sports physician is just what the doctor ordered.
Do you have a popping knee, see a chiropractor first. You will be glad you did. Need help today, book online here