How do you know if your knee pain comes from your spine?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

There are several signs that can indicate that your knee pain is actually originating from your spine. It’s important to pay attention to these signs and seek medical advice to properly diagnose and treat the underlying issue. Here are four common signs that your knee pain may be related to your spine:

1. Your knee pain is accompanied by back pain: If you are experiencing both knee pain and back pain simultaneously, it could be a sign that the two are connected. The nerves that innervate the knee and the back originate from the same region of the spine. Therefore, a problem in the spine, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, can cause pain that radiates down to the knee. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the exact cause of your pain.

2. You have tightness in your hamstrings: Tight hamstrings can be a result of nerve irritation or compression in the lower back. When the nerves in the lumbar spine are affected, it can lead to muscle tightness and imbalances in the legs, including the hamstrings. This can put additional strain on the knee joint and result in knee pain. Stretching exercises and physical therapy can help alleviate the tightness and reduce knee pain.

3. Your hips or quadriceps feel weak: The muscles around the hip joint and quadriceps play a crucial role in stabilizing the knee. If there is a problem in the spine, such as a pinched nerve or muscle weakness, it can affect the strength and stability of these muscles. As a result, you may experience weakness in your hips or quadriceps, which can contribute to knee pain. Strengthening exercises and physical therapy can help improve muscle strength and alleviate knee pain.

4. You have bunions forming on your feet: Bunions are bony bumps that develop on the joint at the base of the big toe. While bunions are primarily caused by abnormal foot mechanics, they can also be influenced by issues in the spine. When there is misalignment or dysfunction in the lower back, it can affect the way you walk and distribute weight on your feet. This altered gait pattern can contribute to the formation of bunions and subsequently lead to knee pain. Addressing the underlying spinal issue and wearing appropriate footwear can help alleviate both bunions and knee pain.

It’s important to remember that these signs are not definitive proof that your knee pain is originating from your spine. A proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional, such as an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist, is necessary to determine the exact cause of your knee pain. They may perform a thorough examination, order imaging tests, and consider your medical history to provide an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.