We rely on the muscles that support and control the knee for all of our daily activities. Simply climbing a flight of stairs or bending down to pick up the newspaper requires a complex interaction of the knee muscles to move and stabilize the area. With sports such as running, tennis, or golf the demand of the knee muscles is even greater. If any of the muscles that surround the knee become tight or weak, excessive strain is placed on the other muscles and on the knee joint itself. If this imbalance in the muscles and the resulting abnormal knee motion is allowed to continue, more severe knee conditions can eventually develop.
A variety of situations can cause pain, weakness, and abnormal function of the knee. Repetitive use with certain sports or occupations, poor posture, lack of use, lack of stretching, muscle imbalances, or previous injury can all affect the normal function of the knee and surrounding muscles resulting in excessive strain to the area.
Over time, this strain can develop into micro-trauma. Micro-trauma is very small-scale damage that occurs in the muscles, tendons, joint capsules, and ligaments in response to small levels of strain. Initially this micro-trauma is not painful, but may be perceived as a mild ache or tightness in the muscles. Although small, this damage needs to be repaired, and the body responds to tissue injury by laying down new tissue to repair the injured tissue. Over time, this scar tissue builds up and accumulates into adhesions. As these adhesions form, they affect the normal health and function of the muscles. In fact, they often lead to pain, tightness, stiffness, restricted joint motion, and diminished blood flow.
As scar-tissue adhesions accumulate in and around the muscles of the knee, more and more strain is placed on the muscles because they must stretch and contract against these adhesions in an attempt to move and stabilize the knee. This places even further strain on the knee muscles, which in turn leads to even more micro-trauma. Essentially, a repetitive injury cycle is established, causing continued adhesion formation and progressive knee dysfunction. At this point, pain and tightness at the knee and the surrounding area starts to become noticeable.
As this repetitive strain cycle continues, the ability of the knee muscles to meet the demands placed on them diminishes and it is not uncommon for the muscles to give way and for more severe and debilitating pain to occur. Many patients come into our office explaining that they have knee pain, but that they did not really have any major type of injury. Patients almost always describe some mild pain or tightness that has been building over time.