Knee Pain? Don’t Forget About The Hips

The hips are a unique joint. Each joint in the body has a primary function which alternates between stability and mobility all the way up the chain. For example, the feet are meant to provide more stability, ankles more mobility, knees stability, hips mobility AND stability, lumbar spine stability, and so on. This combination of mobility and stability roles is what makes the hips unique.

With mechanical knee pain, it’s important to check the hips as they are most commonly the site of dysfunction that’s causing the pain to occur. If the hips are involved, it could be due to a lack of stability, mobility, or both. 

The gluteus medius muscle has a primary function in stabilizing and keeping the pelvis level as we take each step. Dysfunction in this muscle can lead to the knee excessively collapsing and diving in towards the midline. This leads to extra stress and strain being placed on the knee and pain can develop. The lack of stability can be due to strength deficits and/or balance and coordination issues.

The hips are also meant to have plenty of mobility to achieve large ranges of motion. A loss in this mobility can be due to many things but a big one is extended periods of sitting. If there is restriction at the hips, the amount of give with each step becomes limited (there needs to be some to transfer forces from the lower body to the upper body) and can lead to knee pain.

Immobility can also lead to the lumbar spine compromising some of its stability to achieve motions that would typically be accomplished by the hips. The low back ends up working harder and problems of their own can arise as a result.



Dr. Ryan Donahue was born and raised in Sioux City, IA. He attended the University of Iowa where he received a bachelor’s degree in Health and Human Physiology before graduating Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern Health Sciences University as a Doctor of Chiropractic. Dr. Donahue is a Certified Provider of Active Release Technique, RockTape kinesiology tape, and SMART Tools (Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization). He has also had extensive post graduate training in various treatment and rehabilitation approaches that include McKenzie Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS).

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