Tag Archive for: bad knees

Holding Knee with Arthritis

Three Tips to Protect Your Knees From Arthritis

Knee arthritis is one of the most common forms of osteoarthritis.

Knee arthritis accounts for more than 80% of all osteoarthritis and impacts at least 19% of Americans over the age of 45.

For many, a diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis leads to chronic, debilitating knee pain that stops them from doing all of their favorite activities. Sometimes it’s simply due to the limiting belief that once you have arthritis – you’ve got “bad knees” for life.

Other times it’s because you’ve been told you have “bone on bone” in your knee and there’s nothing you can do – except to scale back on activity so that you don’t make it worse. This line of thinking is flawed and often leads people to unnecessary procedures and surgery. One of the best things you can do to protect your knees from the debilitating effects of arthritis is to keep moving.

Here are three tips to help you protect your knees from arthritis as you age – so that you can keep doing all of your favorite activities and avoid any major procedures or surgery:

1. Strengthen Your Hips and Core

Your knee joint is situated just below your hips and core. And research has shown that when you have poor control of your upper leg muscles – you get more stress through your knee joint.

The strength of your upper leg muscles is very much dependent on your hip and core strength. Your thigh bone – or femur – connects your knee and your pelvis – and your core strength controls your pelvis.

If your pelvis isn’t stable – your femur is going to have a difficult time staying in alignment – which will ultimately have an impact on your knee joint. If you’ve got arthritis in your knees, it’s critical you minimize any added stress to your knee joints.

Strengthening your core and having good hip strength is going to help prevent and minimize the symptoms of arthritis and keep you doing activities you love longer.

2. Keep Your Knees Mobile

Mobility before stability is my mantra.

And I say this for just about every joint in your body. But it’s especially true for your knees. There are joints whose primary function is stability – and there are those whose major function is mobility.

Your knee needs to be mobile.

Its major purpose is to bend all the way so you can squat and pick things up – and it needs to straighten all the way to give you stability when you need it. When either of these motions are lacking – your ligaments and surrounding muscles will suffer.

A lot of folks just “accept” that their knees are stiff – especially if you’ve been told you have arthritis in your knees. The limiting belief is that stiffness is par for the course. But the truth is that if you keep your knees mobile as you age – you can not only maintain the mobility you have but improve what is lacking.

If your knees are stiff – start moving them. The thing to understand about arthritis is that it’s a normal part of aging. Debilitating mobility is not. Even a 10% improvement in your knee mobility – which can happen even if you’ve got arthritis – will result in huge improvements in your knee function.

It can be the difference between a natural solution to knee pain vs undergoing a major surgery like knee replacement.

3. Don’t Stop Your Activities

When people find out they have arthritis – and especially if they’re in pain – they often think that slowing down or stopping activity will help protect their knees.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Study after study – including one from the Center for Disease Control – shows that severe joint pain among adults with arthritis is worse with inactivity. When you remain active, you keep blood flowing, your knee joints mobile, and your muscles strong. These are very important factors in managing your arthritis. Sometimes, the knee pain you feel when you’re doing certain activities has nothing to do with your arthritis. Statistics show that only 15% of patients with evidence of knee osteoarthritis on X-ray even had symptoms.

That means that the other 85% is walking, biking, and running around enjoying their most favorite activities – despite the fact their X-ray showed arthritis too. The point here is to keep doing your activities – whether you’ve got arthritis already or not – it’s one of the best ways to prevent and protect your knee joints as you age.

So – to review…

If you want to optimize your knee health as you age – which you still can even if you’ve been told you have “advanced arthritis” – prioritize your core strength, the mobility of your knees, and stay active.

Focusing on these three things can have a significant impact on how arthritis affects you – and can help you avoid major (often unnecessary) surgery in your future.

Is knee pain keeping you from doing your favorite activities? Are you considering a major procedure or surgery but not sure if you need it?

Join us on Tuesday Oct. 25th from 6-7pm for our Free Masterclass for Knee Pain Sufferers.

Sign up using this link —> Knee Pain Masterclass.

We hope to see you there!

Can’t make it live? All participants will receive a complimentary replay of the class 🙂

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her Knee Pain Free Report CLICK HERE  or to get in touch, email her at info@cjphysicaltherapy.com.

Common Golf Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Most golfers I know won’t let anything stop them from being out on the course – especially here in New England where the golf season is not very long.

But let’s face it, when something hurts, playing 9-holes is just not as fun.

Jack Nicklaus had it right when he said, “Professional golfers condition to play golf; amateur golfers play golf to condition.” That explains why 62 percent of amateurs will sustain a significant golf injury, typically because they’re out of shape, have poor swing mechanics, or don’t adequately warm up.

Here are three common golf injuries and things you can do to avoid them.

Elbow Tendonitis

Tendonitis is characterized as the painful inflammation of a tendon. It’s caused by repetitive movements that overload the tendon, eventually causing it to feel strained and overworked. When it occurs on the inside of your elbow, which is something that happens a lot with golfers, it’s called “golfer’s elbow.” The treatment is ice and rest initially (which means you don’t get to play golf for a while) followed by progressive and proper loading of the tendon to get it back to a healthy state. This whole process, if done properly, takes time… and it can certainly ruin your golf season if it’s not caught early.

What causes elbow tendonitis? We know that technically, it’s inflammation of tendons in your elbow. But what leads to that in the first place? Often weakness in your mid-back and shoulders along with mobility restrictions in your wrists. Your elbow is significantly influenced by what happens above and below it. If your mid-back and shoulder area are weak, the rest of your arm won’t feel supported and your elbow can get overworked. If your wrist is tight and immobile, your elbow will be forced to move more than it should, especially through a golf swing. This will cause extra stress on your tendons and eventually result in tendonitis. The best way to prevent this from happening is to make sure you’ve got adequate mobility in your wrists, and good strength in your mid back and shoulders.

Back Pain

One of the most common ways to hurt your back is with repetitive flexion (bending) and rotation (twisting). Well, what does a round of golf consist of over and over? Repetitive bending and twisting! Every time you swing that golf club, you’re putting your spine through one of its most stressful positions. And if it’s not prepared — it’s going to get injured.

One of the best ways to prepare your spine for a long and healthy golf season is to avoid a lot of sitting and keep it mobile. Sitting for prolonged periods makes your back more susceptible to injury in general, but especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of bending and twisting. Interrupting your sitting frequently during the day is a very easy way to minimize its harmful effects. 

If you lack adequate mobility in your spine, it will feel strained every time you try and swing your club. When you overstress a joint that is stiff, the muscles around it tend to tighten up and spasm in response. It’s important that you take time to optimize and maintain your best spinal mobility for golf season. This will significantly help to decrease the stress that occurs in your spine when you swing in one direction repetitively, and ultimately help you prevent a back injury.

Knee pain

Between walking 18 holes, and the repetitive twisting that happens at your knee when you swing a golf club, there’s the potential for lots of stress (and injury) through your knee joints. If you lack adequate mobility or stability in and around your knees, you’re going to have problems. Much like the elbow, the most common source of knee pain I see in my golfers comes from the joints above and below, and not from the knee itself. To keep your knees mobile and healthy and prevent them from getting overstressed during golf season, it’s important that you take measures to optimize the strength in your core and hips, as well as stability in your feel and ankles. 

The power in your golf swing should come from your hips and core, not from your knees (or back). If they aren’t very strong, your knees will want to try and help, and they are not designed for this. Your knees need to be loose and free during a golf swing. If not, the muscles and ligaments around your knee joint will take on unwanted stress. 

Another cause of unwanted stress to your knee joint is lack of support from your feet and ankles.

Your knees need a stable foundation if they want to bend and twist without stress. If stability below is lacking, your knees will tighten up in an effort to compensate. Moral of the story: make sure you’ve got mobile knees, a strong core and hips, plus stable feet and ankles, so that knee pain doesn’t derail your golf season.

Hopefully these tips help you understand why golf injuries happen and most importantly, how to prevent them. If you’re feeling stuck and looking for individualized expert help – request a FREE Discovery Session. We look forward to speaking with you!

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth, NH.  To get a free copy of her guide to taking care of back pain – click here.

knee replacement surgery

Three Things to Consider before Knee Replacement Surgery

Total knee replacement (TKR) surgery has been around for decades, and generally speaking, results are very good. 90% of folks can expect up to a 20 year success rate. The most common reason for a knee replacement is to resolve advanced arthritis.

But what if advanced arthritis isn’t the true cause of your knee problem? Do you really need a knee replacement?

Only 15% of patients with evidence of knee osteoarthritis (OA) actually have symptoms. That means the other 85% don’t have any pain at all. These results are consistent for other joints as well. Signs of degenerating joints, bone spurs, and even meniscus tears all occur normally as you age. While some of the time these things can be the cause of your knee pain – more often than not it’s something else – or a combination of things – that are fully responsible for your joint pain or dysfunction. Evidence of knee OA shouldn’t be the only factor determining your decision of major knee surgery.

Here are three important things to consider before deciding if a total knee replacement is right for you:

 

1. How severe is your knee pain?

This is one of the most important factors to consider before undergoing major knee surgery. The X-ray might say you’ve got “bone on bone” arthritis and terrible OA – but if your knee pain is fairly tolerable – and you can still do most activities you love – why take the risk of major surgery when you could wait? Even though knee replacement surgeries are quite common and successful – there are still risks and complications.

The most common risk is infection. But you could also end up with blood clots, problems with anesthesia, or an ill-fitting prosthesis that doesn’t function right. Not only that, but people tend to underestimate the 6-12 month recovery that comes afterwards. If your knee pain is severe and intolerable, and you’ve already tried physical therapy, then you’re probably a good candidate for knee replacement, and the potential risks are likely worth the reward for you. But if your pain isn’t that bad yet, it might be a good idea to wait, and get a second opinion. There could be other reasons for your knee pain beyond arthritis. If those factors get addressed, you might find you don’t need surgery at all.

2.  Does your back hurt?

In a recent study by Rosedale, et. al (published in the Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy), it was found that over 40% of patients with isolated extremity pain, who did not believe their pain could be originating from their spine, responded to spinal intervention.  What does that mean in plain English? It means that you can have knee pain coming from your lower back and not even know it. Severe knee OA doesn’t come out of nowhere. It gradually progresses over time. But when you have knee pain that comes on for no reason, has good days and bad days, and especially if you have knee pain and back pain at the same time – you must get your spine evaluated before undergoing any type of intervention for your knee.

Luckily most surgeons consider knee replacement as a last resort. But if your spine is causing your knee pain and you miss it – you’ll end up down the path of failed knee treatment after failed knee treatment. Then suddenly it will seem as if you’re at your last resort, especially if you’re over 50 and have (normal) evidence of knee OA on your X-ray.  Always get your spine checked by a mechanical pain expert when your knee hurts. It will help you avoid years of mis-guided knee treatment, and could save you from an unnecessary knee replacement.

3. How stiff is your knee?

Typically, with severe or advanced OA of the knee, you’re going to have pretty restricted mobility. And any efforts to improve that mobility will be minimally effective and likely make your knee worse. But if your knee is not consistently stiff, only seems to get tight in certain situations, or perhaps it feels better after you stretch and mobilize it – you may want to think twice before getting it replaced. That’s because sometimes mobility restrictions in your knee can be caused by something other than arthritis – like a small tear in your tissue that gets “caught” in your joint. If you know how to move your knee joint in just the right way – you can actually remove this restriction. Not only will your knee move normally again, but your pain will go away too. This is really hard to figure out on your own. It even gets missed by a lot of medical professionals if they aren’t expertly trained in diagnosing mechanical pain. And it definitely doesn’t get picked up by an X-ray or MRI.

If your knee is not terribly stiff 100% of the time, and you’re tolerating most of your favorite activities – the best thing to do is get a second opinion from a trained mechanical pain expert. Because what you might be missing is highly specialized and specific mobility treatment for your knee. Once your knee mobility is fully and properly restored, you might find you no longer need a knee replacement, or at the very least can put it off another 10 years.

To be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t get a knee replacement.

I’m saying there’s a chance you don’t need one and it’s important to explore that. I’ve seen so many cases over the course of my career where people didn’t need a knee replacement – but got one because the X-ray or MRI “said so” – and then continued to suffer for years afterwards.

Are you looking for help with knee pain now?

Sign up for a discovery visit with one of my specialists to see if we would be a good fit to help you! CLICK HERE to request a Free Discovery with one of my specialists.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. 

Man getting knee pain treatment

Could your Knee Pain be Caused by your Lower Back?

Is your knee pain actually due to a problem in your knee – or could it be caused by your lower back?

One of the most important things to get right when it comes to successfully resolving knee pain is to correctly identify the source. And often times that source can be your lower back.

One of the biggest clues that you’ve missed the root source of your knee pain is that it doesn’t go away after trying everything that “should” help it. Perhaps you’ve tried ice, heat, pain medication, foam rolling, strengthening, and stretching… but no matter what, your knee pain just won’t seem to go away.  This is often when knee doctors start to get involved, which is great if you actually have a knee problem. Knee pain that doesn’t respond to conservative treatment should be looked at further. It’s possible that you might need some kind of procedure or surgical intervention.

But what if your knee pain is a symptom of something else?

 

If so, and you don’t get it properly checked, then you risk having unnecessary knee surgery. 

I just spoke to someone who this happened to. She had knee surgery to “clean out” some wear and tear from arthritis after trying several months of physical therapy. She was told it would be a “quick recovery” and that her pain would be significantly reduced. Well, three months later, her knee is feeling worse than pre-surgery. And to fix the NEW pain she has, they tell her she will need even more surgery! She came to us for a second opinion, and the very first thing we did was screen her lower back to see if it might be the cause of her knee pain. Turns out it was! This woman’s knee pain was never actually coming from her knee, and she ended up having unnecessary surgery because the root cause – her lower back – was missed. 

How does a misdiagnosis like this even happen?

One of the biggest culprits is imaging. If you’re over age 40, and you get an X-ray or MRI taken of your knees, there is a 60-80% chance they’ll find arthritis or meniscus (cartilage) tears. Studies have shown that arthritic changes and meniscus tears are a normal part of aging, so they will show up on your images even if you don’t have any knee pain. This is why you should never dictate your treatment plan, and certainly not surgery, based on an MRI or X-ray alone.

Here are a few clues to help you figure out if your knee pain could be coming from your back.

 

First, pay attention to how and when your knee pain started. If you’ve had a fall or some kind of trauma to your knee, and you experience knee pain or swelling shortly after, then odds are very good you have an isolated knee problem. With isolated knee injuries, you often know exactly when and how you hurt your knee. It may have been associated with a pop or specific strain of some kind. But if your knee pain comes on slowly or out of nowhere, then you must consider that the source of the problem could be elsewhere. 

Another clue is how your pain behaves. When your lower back is the source, often you’ll have difficulty pinpointing exactly where your knee pain is. It may feel dull or even numb. It might move around, or perhaps travel up or down your leg. One day your knee will feel great, and other days it could feel excruciating. When someone comes into our office with pain like this, we ALWAYS check their lower back first. Knee pain that moves around a lot, or that comes and goes frequently, can quite often be due to a back problem.

If you’ve been suffering from knee pain for awhile, it’s worth considering that the root source of your problem could be your lower back.

Before you think about getting images of your knee, or undergoing some kind of surgery or procedure, you’ll want to make certain that your knee problem is indeed a knee problem.

 

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth, NH. To get a free copy of her free guide: 7 Ways to Stop Knee Pain – click here.

Carrie working on a knee

Three Causes of Knee Pain and What to Do

Knee pain has been the hot topic around our office this week!

With the nicer weather we’ve been having – more people are outside – and their knees are “talking” to them.

Knee pain is the second most common complaint of musculoskeletal pain (back pain is number one) and it impacts one-third of all Americans at one time or another.

Most of our clients are in their 50’s and 60’s and love to ski, run, hike and bike. They worry that knee pain could bring an end to their active lifestyles.

The good news is that eighty percent of ALL knee problems can be resolved without procedures or surgery – but it starts with accurately identifying the root cause.

Here are three of the most common causes of knee pain and what you can do to resolve it.

1. Patellofemoral Knee syndrome

Also known as “runner’s knee”, patellofemoral knee syndrome (PFS) is characterized by pain in the front of your knee – usually just below or behind your knee cap. With PFS, the source of the problem typically has to do with unwanted pressure in the front of your knee… that eventually results in pain.

It’s very tempting to just get a cortisone shot – or take pain pills – to reduce the inflammation caused by this wear and tear. But then you’re only addressing the symptoms…

If you truly want to put an end to PFS, you’ll need to find the cause of this problem.

Typically, it’s poor form and movement habits that are the result of an imbalance somewhere between your hips, quads (front of the thigh), and hamstrings (back of the thigh). When you figure that out, you’ll restore healthy, balanced movement in your knee again – and reduce the aggravation at your knee cap.

2. Iliotibial band syndrome

This is a very common problem that is similar to PFS except that you’ll experience pain on the side of your knee instead of the front. Your iliotibial band (ITB) is a large, thick band of tissue that runs along the side of your thigh to the bottom of your knee. Your ITB is formed from a muscle in your hip called tensor fascia latae (TFL).

When your TFL gets overworked – your ITB suffers – and will result in what often feels like stabbing pain at the side of your knee.

The most common treatment I see for this is foam rolling and massage – and while these are great modalities to relieve your symptoms – they do NOT address the root problem.

You must figure out why your TFL is being stressed and overworked if you really want to get rid of your pain. Typically, it’s due to weak glute muscles, the deep ones designed to stabilize your pelvis. Your TFL is neighbor to your glutes so when they decide to be lazy – your TFL loves to help out – and eventually overdoes it.

When you can get these two groups of muscles working properly together – you’ll put an end to ITB syndrome 🙂

3. Osteoarthritis

Many people find out they have osteoarthritis in their knees and think there’s nothing that can be done. They either have to “live with it” or get surgery to replace their knees.

Not true!

First of all… arthritis is normal and it happens to everyone as they age. What is NOT normal is for you to think you’re helpless because of it.

Arthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. While there isn’t anything you can do to reverse this process – there is plenty you can do to minimize the symptoms you get because of this condition.

It all comes down to balanced joints and movement.

The more mobility you have – and the more stability you have around your knees – the less symptomatic your arthritis will be.

Some key areas to focus on when you’ve got arthritis in your knees is good core strength, and good flexibility in your hips and ankles. If anything is off in these areas – your knees will want to compensate – which could result in aggravation of arthritic symptoms.

“Motion is lotion” is not just a saying – it works! Especially when it comes to arthritis.

If you’re currently suffering from knee pain, remember that there is a very good chance you fall into the eighty percent of people who can successfully get rid of it completely on their own.

There is no need to rely on pain pills – or think that procedures and surgery are your only options!

If you’re looking for help here in Portsmouth, New Hampshire CLICK HERE to Request a Free Discovery Session. One of our specialist will reach out to you, ask you about everything that’s been going on, and determine if we’re the best people to help you!

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her Knee Pain Report CLICK HERE  or to get in touch, email her at info@cjphysicaltherapy.com.

Noticing More Knee Pain during Quarantine?

Aside from back pain, the second most common complaint bringing people into our office these days is knee pain, and lately, I’ve seen a little surge.

Here’s why…

People are sitting a lot more, which leads to increased stiffness in your knees. And a lot of us are doing different kinds of activities than we did 6 weeks ago, which for some, is exposing knee problems they never knew they had.

I spoke to one gentleman last week (we’ll call him “Jack”) who had started walking every day, and running a little bit, because his gym had closed. After about 4 weeks of this, he began experiencing pain in the front of his knee. He put some ice on it, took a break from his daily walks and running, and also resumed some stretches that a former physical therapist had told him to do. This seemed to help, so he resumed his walks and running again. Three days into it… bam… his knee pain returned.

Our specialist team has opened up our schedules to answer people’s questions about what they can do at home right now to take care of any aches or pains.

So Jack took us up on that, because he wanted to know if his knee pain was something to worry about. Did he need to see a doctor? Did he need to let it rest some more? Were there specific exercises he could do?

He did NOT want to stop his walking and running routine, but he definitely didn’t want his knee to get so bad that it would keep him from returning to the gym when it opened back up. He’s 55 years old and staying active and mobile is VERY important to him. We spoke for about 20 minutes and I knew immediately that rest wasn’t going to work, and that X-rays or medication from a doctor wouldn’t do anything either. Those things would only mask the problem. They would take care of the pain in his knee – but wouldn’t correct the source of his problem.

Ironically, the truth about knee problems is that they’re often not actually knee problems!  

With most knee pain, we can trace the underlying issues to a locality directly below the knee (the ankle or foot) or directly above it (the pelvis, hips, core, and low back). If you don’t engage your core throughout your daily movement, it actually puts a huge amount of strain on your knees. As your legs swing and rotate, the torque that should be occurring through your pelvis and hips gets overloaded onto your knees. So as we age, we may start feeling a sense of wear and tear or weakness in our knees that actually comes from a lifetime of improper movement.

The mainstream medical model is focused largely on treating symptoms rather than identifying the root cause of WHY the problem is occuring in the first place.

Pain pills, injections, and even surgery are often recommended before more conservative and natural treatments! And because these quick fixes are merely addressing the symptoms, the physical problems return for the majority of affected individuals. That’s because those knee issues actually stemmed from a different part of the body, and the knee will continue to be overloaded until those biomechanical problems are addressed directly!

Yes – we were able to figure ALL of this out from a FREE phone session.

The next step for Jack was an evaluation with our knee specialist. We scheduled a virtual session over Zoom, she was able to confirm the source of the problem. Turns out the muscles in his hips weren’t firing like they should and it was causing his knees to compensate and work harder than they needed to, which resulted in pain. So we got him doing the correct stretches and specific exercises that would train his hip and pelvis to work like they are supposed to.

In no time, Jack will be back to his walking and running routine, but he will ALSO be in better shape to return to the gym. One of his frustrations before was not being able to do as many squats as he wanted – because they hurt his knees. He had no idea that the problem was actually coming from his hips! So he is pretty excited to try his squats again once his gym opens back up.

If Jack’s story sounds familiar to you, schedule a call with us.

There is no point in sitting at home worrying, or scouring Google for what you should do to fix your pain. We can figure out what’s going on with you over the phone and I’ll let you know if you need to schedule a session with us, see a doctor, or if it’s something you can take care of on your own.