Knee pain is a significant problem, particularly among elderly and athletic patients.
Fortunately, several chiropractic techniques can help, including instrument adjusting. The phrase “knee pain” is broad, and there are many conditions that affect the different structures of the knee. Some of the most common issues include osteoarthritis and tears or ruptures of the soft tissues that allow the knee to bend. The type of chiropractic treatment that will work best in any given situation always depends on the cause of the pain, as well as any previous treatments the patient has received.
Impacted population groups
Elderly patients. Osteoarthritis is frequently the cause of knee pain in elderly adults,1 and while there is no cure for this degenerative condition, treatment approaches have evolved over time. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA),
“Years ago, doctors hardly ever told rheumatoid arthritis patients to ‘go take a hike’ or ‘go for a swim.’ Arthritis was considered an inherent part of the aging process and a signal to a patient that it’s time to slow down. But not so anymore. Recent research and clinical findings show that there is much more to life for arthritis patients than the traditional recommendation of bed rest and drug therapy.” 2
Unfortunately, the activities that will often help patients in the long run can bring pain in the present.
Athletic patients. Much of the time, athletes have knee pain because the soft tissues of the knee are torn or ruptured. Anyone who has played sports for an extended length of time knows someone with an IT band injury, a torn meniscus, or some other soft tissue problem. In many cases, patients with these conditions undergo surgery, which can cause pain due to scar tissue.
Proper functioning of the knee is important for a healthy lifestyle at any age. And often, the treatments for athletes with knee pain and patients with osteoarthritis include similar steps. In both cases, instrument adjustments can help.
Check biomechanical functions. In both osteoarthritis and sports-related knee injuries, DCs often find that the biomechanical function of the hip, ankle, or foot require adjustments in addition to the area with pain. Instrument adjusting, which is generally gentler than manual adjusting, may be the best way to correct any malfunction with the patient’s biomechanics.
Soft-tissue manipulation. Chiropractors can help stretch and release the soft tissues surrounding the knee, which can help the patient be more active. Instruments may or may not be used to reach the affected soft tissues.
Patient education. Chiropractors are often in a position to help patients understand why they are experiencing pain, in addition to treating it, and can teach exercises that may help beyond their adjustments. For example, teaching osteoarthritis patients how to protect the fragile hip joint is important;3 and for athletes, DCs may consider recommending specific exercises to precede or follow activity.
1 Hardy K, Hoskins W, Pollard H, Ward G. The effect of a manual therapy knee protocol on osteoarthritic knee pain: a randomised controlled trial. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2008:52(4);229–242.
2 American Chiropractic Association. “Don’t take arthritis lying down.” ACAToday.org. https://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=62. Accessed April 2015.
3 Medical Multimedia Group, LLC. “Arthritis of the knee (Osteoarthritis of the knee).” Winchester Hospital Chiropractic Center. http://www.winchesterhospitalchiro.com/osteoarthritis_of_the_knee.html. Accessed April 2015.