Knee injuries are one of the most common reasons people visit a Physical Therapist. The knee is the largest joint in the body and is put under the most amount of strain. From IT band syndrome to bursitis to tendinitis, there is a vast amount of ailments that affect the knee, but more often the problem extends beyond the knee.
When experiencing knee pain, most people do not think of looking to the hip as the source of the issue. The ball and socket joint in the hips have many ligaments that help stabilize the hip and control motion in the leg and knee. The hip muscle that is the biggest culprit in causing knee pain is the gluteus medius. The gluteus medius is in charge of abducting* your hip and upper leg when the leg is not on the ground. As your foot hits the ground the glute medius helps control the collapse of the leg from the forces of gravity, including the internal rotation of the femur. The glute medius prevents over rotation of the femur and the diving in of the knee. Both of these motions put an excessive stress on the knee joint.
When you sit your gluteus medius helps turn your legs outward, which is where many knee pain victims problems begin. Because the average American sits over 10 hours a day, the gluteus medius becomes weak and stretched out. As it weakens, it has a harder time keeping the thighs and hips turned forward. When the thighs turn inward, it puts too much strain on the knee causing knee injuries like IT band syndrome and tendonitis.
Strengthening your gluteus medius and the surrounding muscles is a great way to reduce the stress on the knees and get them back into optimal shape. Though not all knee pain is caused from muscle weakness, it is important to look at the whole body rather than isolating the problem to the injured area.
*Abducting is when the limbs pull away from the center of the body. Adducting is when the limbs move towards the center of the body.
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