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The hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone

Ever had a niggling hip or knee pain? And put it down to stress or overloading on that area? Health professionals in sports medicine know that this isn’t always the case – and that problems in one area can actually be caused or aggravated by something happening elsewhere in the body.

Interestingly, this line of thinking has been confirmed by a recent report from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York which draws a definite parallel between foot pain and problems in the hips and knees, and advocates for a change in how patients with lower extremity pain are evaluated. It calls for an increased focus upon the kinetic chain – the notion that the body’s joints and segments have an effect on each other during movement.

Feet first

The study involved a database of 2,181 people who had participated in the Framingham Foot Study between 2002 and 2008. The participants completed a questionnaire evaluating their foot pain, pain location and severity, as well as whether they had experienced pain, aching or stiffness in the hip or knee, and the side of any reported pain.

According to the researchers, there was a direct link between foot pain results and bilateral and same-side knee pain results in both men and women. For example, men with right foot pain compared to those with no foot pain were five to seven times more likely to have pain in their right knee or in both knees.

Furthermore, foot pain was also associated with hip pain on the same side in men – while in women, bilateral foot pain was associated with hip pain on both sides, on the same side or on the opposite side.

Break the chain of pain

Why is there such a link between foot issues and pain in the knees and hips? According to the researchers, the answer is simple. When someone experiences pain in the foot, they tend to modify their movements and postures, which can result in misalignment. And the challenge for physicians is to develop a treatment plan that anticipates and addresses these issues: to effectively nip further problems in the bud.

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