Treating Knee Pain with Acupuncture

Knee pain

Acupuncture is well-known for its ability to reduce or completely resolve pain. However there is much more to it than sticking a few very fine needles in at random. A good acupuncturist will have a detailed knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the knee. They will understand how the knee works, what problems can develop, and how those problems are caused. Without treating the causes of the problem, there will be little or no improvement, or the improvement will only be temporary.

So to treat a knee problem effectively, the acupuncturist needs to carefully check

  • The alignment of the knee joint
  • The muscles that affect the knee
  • What makes the pain better or worse
  • Any inflammation
  • Any arthritis or degeneration

Alignment

Some joints in the body, such as the shoulder, are very versatile and allow movement in many directions. In some ways the knee joint is much simpler, as it can only bend backwards and forwards.

This makes the knee is very strong in this direction, however it makes it susceptible to damage from being twisted or bent to the side. The majority of knee problems we treat are the result of one or both of these forces, and they are usually caused by misalignment of a foot or of the pelvis.

How the Feet Can Cause Knee Pain

Incorrect alignment of your foot can cause a significant effect on your knee. To see this, try standing up with no shoes, and check the position of your knees. Then roll your feet outward so you are standing on the outsides of your feet, and you will see that your knees bend out as well. And if you roll your feet inward, you will see that your knees will also bend in.

Because the knee is quite a sturdy joint, it will normally cope with this strain and uneven pressure for some time, but eventually damage will start to occur and pain will develop.

Old ankle injuries can also affect your knees. Sometimes a sprained ankle does not heal quite as well as it should, and even though there is no pain at the ankle itself, the body knows there is still a weakness there, and will slightly favour that foot. This can cause you to walk very slightly unevenly and put a little more of your weight on the other foot. The alignment of the knee above it is affected, which over time can cause pain. (So if someone comes to see us for right knee pain, we need to check their left ankle for any old injuries.)

How the Hips Can Cause Knee Pain

It is surprising how many people have a misalignment of their pelvis. In some ways your hips are like a see-saw; if one side is too high the other will be too low. (Or if one is too far forward, the other will be too far back.) This also puts uneven pressure on the knee joint and often ends up causing pain.

Muscles Affecting the Knee

Sometimes the muscles above or below the knee can be too tight or too weak, causing the knee to be pulled unevenly. As an example, pain at the top or bottom of the knee is often caused by the muscle just to the outside of the shin bone. One of the best ways to treat this type of knee pain is to use a combination of 3 acupuncture points along this shin muscle.

What Makes the Pain Better or Worse

Specific acupuncture points on the thigh muscles are used to treat pain which is caused or aggravated by different factors. In the diagram,

  • St31 is used for pain with bending or stretching the knee, such as going up or down stairs
  • St32 for pain that is worse with cold, such as in winter
  • St33 for pain involving poor blood flow to the knee
  • St34 for pain from rheumatoid arthritis

(Diagram from ‘Clinical Strategies’ Vol.1 by Kiiko Matsumoto.)

Inflammation

It is also very important for the acupuncturist to check the level of inflammation in the knee, as often knee problems don’t improve (or don’t completely improve) if there is still inflammation there. Sometimes the inflammation is obvious- the knee may feel warm, swollen, or improves with anti-inflammatories or ice, but at other times the inflammation may not be obvious. There are 4 acupuncture points on the feet known as ‘Fire Points’ that the acupuncturist can press, and if any are tender it tells them there is still inflammation occurring, and where it is in the knee.

Arthritis or Degeneration

Acupuncture is very good at treating knee pain generally, however if there is any arthritis or degeneration in the joint, it is best to have this treated by an experienced naturopath as well, to help the tissues heal and repair.

This has been a brief summary of some of the areas that need to be addressed to resolve a knee pain issue. If you have a knee problem or any other health issue, you are welcome to book in for a free Comprehensive Assessment at our clinic. We can then have a close look at what is going on, what has caused the problem, and the best way to sort it out. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is completely free, with no obligations whatsoever.)

Be well, and have a great life!

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