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When we begin to experience knee pain, we often assume that this is due to a lack of stretching, excessive leg movement, or sudden twists. However, there are times you experience knee pain because of your back, specifically due to a spinal nerve or multiple spinal nerves.
So how does back pain cause knee pain?
In this blog, we’ll explain the connection between your back and spine. We’ll also be diving into the different activities you can do to prevent your back from causing knee pain or even worse; knee injuries.
How Your Back and Knee Connect
Your back (spinal cord), its associated musculoskeletal anatomy, and your knees are more than just “body parts”. These three work in collaboration to make it possible for us to move. And this connection starts with the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve is the largest in the human body. The nerve travels from the spinal cord, through the sacroiliac joint, and down the posterior side of each lower extremity. The sciatic nerve innervates all of the muscles in the back of the leg, as well as sensations in the skin.
Because of this nerve’s size and location, the sciatic nerve is susceptible to injury. When the sciatic nerve is pressed or inflamed, it can cause pain in the lower back, hips, and legs. This medical condition is called sciatica.
Sciatica pain can be caused by a variety of things, including a herniated disc, pregnancy, spinal stenosis, and tumors. While sciatica can be painful, it is usually not serious. Most people with sciatica will recover without any long-term problems.
Why Your Back Could be Causing Knee Pain
Now that we understand how our spine affects our lower extremities, let’s look at the possible causes of how your back could be the source of your knee pain
One of those causes is rheumatoid arthritis. This is a form of arthritis that causes swelling and inflammation in the joints.
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can vary from back issues to knee pain, and they can also include baker’s cysts, bone spurs, and low back pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition, which means that it can last for years or even decades.
Having hamstring tightness is a common condition that can cause pain and discomfort in the back of the thigh. The biceps femoris is one muscle that can be affected by hamstring tightness. This muscle originates in the pelvis and runs down the back of the thigh, where it inserts into the knee joint via the fibula.
The biceps femoris is innervated by the tibial division (long head) and fibular division (short head) of the sciatic nerve. When the biceps femoris muscle becomes tight, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause pain in the back of the thigh.
Hip Joint Feels Weak
If you’ve ever felt a sudden weakness in your hip joint or quadriceps, it may be due to a pinched nerve. This can often happen if you sit at a desk job for long periods, which causes your hip flexors to tighten and shorten due to the stationary position.
Extended periods of sitting can also put pressure on the lumbar disc and cause the nerve to become pinched. This pain eventually can lead to your knees.
You may also have difficulty simply walking or going up and down stairs. This can be a sign that the shock-absorbing mechanism in your knee is not working properly.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor to rule out any other potential issues. However, the weakness is due to a simple nerve issue and can be easily resolved.
Painful Nerve Roots
Nerve root pain is a chronic condition characterized by severe pain in the lumbar spine and spinal column.
In these situations, the pain typically radiates from the back of your thigh down to your foot. Nerve root pain is caused by compression of the nerve roots as they exit the spine.
This compression can be caused by a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis.
Knee pain in your back can get worse if you continue to brush off the symptoms and avoid getting professional help. In this section. we’ll explore the treatment options you should consider.
Physical therapy can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the back, which can provide relief from pain and improve mobility in your daily activities. A physical therapist will help improve your body’s range of motion and reduce inflammation.
As a result, physical therapy is often a good choice for those who are looking for treatment for back pain that leads to knee pain. However, it is important to consult with a doctor and get a proper physical examination before beginning any physical therapy program.
Hamstring stretches are an important part of any fitness routine. Not only do they improve flexibility, but they can also help to prevent lower back pain and other injuries. Hamstring exercises can be performed using your body weight or with resistance bands.
For a beginner, start with bodyweight hamstring stretches. Take a look at this video that helped me with my tight hamstrings.
Hamstring stretches are a great way to improve flexibility and prevent leg pain. Start slowly and increase the intensity of your workouts as you become more comfortable with the stretching routine.
Many people suffer from chronic back or knee pain. Often, the cause of this pain is inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response of the body to injury or illness, but in some cases, it can become chronic and lead to ongoing pain.
Fortunately, several medications can help to reduce inflammation and ease the pain.
These anti-inflammatory drugs fall into two main categories: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids.
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, are available over the counter and can be effective for mild to moderate pain relief. Corticosteroids are hormones and are classified as a more powerful type of anti-inflammatory medication that is typically only available by prescription.
They can be taken orally or injected directly into the affected area.
Both NSAIDs and corticosteroids can cause side effects, so it is important to talk to a doctor before starting any new medication. However, for many people, these medications can provide much-needed relief from chronic pain.
Maintain a Great Posture
Good posture is essential for maintaining a healthy spine. Standing up straight with your shoulders back not only feels better, but it can also help to prevent future pain and injuries.
If you are already experiencing back pain, focusing on maintaining the correct posture can help to alleviate some of the discomforts associated with your condition.
To add, good posture not only feels good now but helps lessen the chances of joint pain later in life. The steps for good posture are quite simple and only require a bit of mindfulness about how you’re carrying yourself day to day.
In short, you want to keep your shoulders back, your chin up, and your core engaged. It sounds easy enough but can be difficult to maintain throughout the day if you’re not used to it.
I suggest setting a reminder on your phone or computer to check your posture every hour. After a while, it will become second nature.
Exercise is an important part of any treatment plan for back or knee pain. Not only can it help to improve your overall health, but it can also help to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with these conditions.
Many different types of exercises can be beneficial, but some of the best exercises for back and knee pain relief include:
– Aerobic exercise: This type of exercise helps to increase your heart rate and can be performed using a variety of activities, such as walking, running, or biking.
– Strength training: Strength-training exercises help to build strong muscles that can support your joints and spine. These exercises can be performed using weight machines, free weights, or your body weight. There are even new types of joint-specific exercise equipment that you can buy to optimize your knee health.
– Flexibility exercises: Stretching and flexibility exercises help to improve your range of motion and can also help to prevent future injuries. Yoga and Pilates are two great examples of activities that can help to improve your flexibility.
If you are new to exercise, it is important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts as you become more comfortable. It is also important to talk to a doctor before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you are experiencing chronic pain.
With these tips, you can hopefully lessen or even get rid of back and knee pain altogether!
Consult an Expert
When it comes to your health, it’s always best to consult an expert. Whether you’re dealing with back pain or knee pain, an occupational therapist can help you find the best way to cope with your condition and the associated mental struggles that go along with extended periods of pain and discomfort.
While these tips can help lessen the pain you’re experiencing, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to listen to your body and find what works best for you.