By Dr. Jensen, DC:
Recently, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) reported that 9.5 million people visited orthopedic surgeons because of knee problems. The number is actually even higher, with a greater number of children and adults are participating in athletics every year. The large majority of innjuries are due to activities that require stopping and starting or quickly changing directions, such as basketball, raquetball, football, and related sports. It is thought that these extreme forces on the knee can result in torn ligaments,but they don’t result in torn ligaments in everyone, meaning there could be some pre-existing contributing factors.
To learn why our knees are injured so frequently, it’s important to know how the knee works. The knee joint is composed of three bones: the femur, the tibia and the fibula. Cartilage covers the hinge and provides a smooth, lubricated gliding surface so the knee can move. The shape of the knee joint is stable, but to function properly, the ligaments need to be in good shape, too!
the knee ligaments are the ACL, the PCL, the LCL and the MCL.
While the ACL works as the main stabilizer when the knee is bent, the PCL works as the main stabilizer when the knee is extended. The collateral ligaments stabilize side to side motions. The medial and lateral menisci are located within the joint and act as “shock absorbers” and “aligners”. The most commonly injured parts of the knee are the ACL and the medial meniscus. Tears of the meniscus usually take place during twisting, pivoting, or decelerating movements, or as a result of direct impact, as is often found in footbal injuries.
When you look for information regarding treatment of knee injuries, you will see two basic categories of medical care: surgical and nonsurgical. Surgical intervention has certainly improved over the past 20 years and typically involves arthroscopic surgery for severely sprained or ruptured ligaments or torn cartilage. The new procedures are far less invasive than techniques used many years ago, resulting in less scar tissue and faster recovery time. Nonsurgical intervention typically involves improving the stability of the knee joint with rehabilitative exercises, focusing on the quadriceps (thigh) muscles and the hamstrings. Bracing is also a common practice to enhance stability by limiting motion in the knee joint.
To summarize, the way knee injuries are handled in today’s world is to stop doing things that tear ligaments, like running, jumping, twisting and stopping quickly. If you do want to continue doing those things, the common recommendation is to get surgery or do rehab and put on a brace to limit motion in the joint. The resulting lack of motion will likely cause degenerative arthritis over the next 20-40 years, which will result in the need for a knee joint replacement.
OK, so where’s the good news? Simply put, a chiropractor has the ability to do a better job than that! Their knowledge of the foot, knee, hip and spine connection, combined with practical experience, affords an alternative to the “shoot the dice and hope for the best” theory. The first thing to understand is that healthy knee function is not possible without healthy foot function. The medical model of health care does not take that into consideration because the foot rarely presents itself as being painful. Even if the foot does hurt, treatment only takes care of the symptom and does not address abnormal joint function.